In an unprecedented move, the GUSA Assembly voted overwhelmingly last night to reject the disputed results of last month’s executive elections and called for a new election to be held later this year.

The vote signified a lack of confidence in the student association’s Election Commission, which had come under fire for alleged procedural violations after it voted to disqualify top vote-getting candidates Khalil Hibri (SFS ’07) and Geoff Greene (SFS ’08) last Monday for violating election rules.

Hibri and Greene appealed their disqualification, but GUSA’s appeals board voted to uphold the original decision on Saturday. The candidates then appealed to the Assembly to break with tradition and decline to certify declared winners Twister urchison (SFS ’08) and Salik Ishtiaq (SFS ’07).

“I think the Assembly members are heroes,” Hibri said after the Assembly meeting.

Murchison, who would have been inaugurated last night had the election results been approved, said in a statement that he was “saddened” by the Assembly’s vote.

“While I disagree, I will respect the ruling,” the statement said. “In the coming days, I will consult others and reflect on where GUSA goes from here.”

Hibri’s ticket had received 45.9 percent of the vote in last month’s elections, to Murchison’s 38.7 percent.

As a result of last night’s decision, current GUSA President Pravin Rajan (SFS ’07), whose term was set to expire last night, will remain in office until a successor is elected and confirmed.

The Assembly’s nullification of the election marks the second time in three years that a GUSA presidential election will remain contested well after students cast their votes. A contested election in 2004 led to numerous appeals by the top two vote-getting candidates, resulting in a victory by Kelley Hampton (SFS ’05) more than two months after election day.

Rajan said during the meeting that he was surprised by the Assembly’s vote. He said that although he had been looking forward to leaving office, GUSA would not be harmed by the Assembly’s decision.

“Everything will continue to function,” he said at the close of the meeting. “People will continue to work on the big projects.”

Still, the Assembly’s rare assertion of authority leaves much uncertainty in its wake, as there is no provision in GUSA’s constitution or bylaws governing what steps should now be taken.

Assembly Chair Ed Duffy (SFS ’07) recommended that GUSA organize another election in coming weeks. Several members of the Assembly said that the new presidential election should coincide with elections for a new Assembly, scheduled for April 11.

Duffy said that the Assembly was justified in its decision.

“If we had declared one ticket to be the winner, it would have put a cloud over the organization for an entire year,” he said at the close of the meeting.

Assembly Representative Christina Goodlander (SFS ’07) said during deliberations that she felt it was the Assembly’s role to ensure that all parties followed the election bylaws.

But Representative Charlie Harrington (COL ’08), who worked on Murchison’s campaign, said during the meeting that the decision placed the Assembly on a “slippery slope.”

“It gives us a power that we do not possess. . I think we are forced to act as a seal of approval,” he said. “We’re not overseeing the Election Commission.”

During last night’s meeting, Assembly members questioned Election Commissioner Benita Sinnarajah (NHS ’06) about allegations that she had given conflicting instructions to Greene over his use of a laptop to encourage voting on election day, which ultimately led to his disqualification.

Sinnarajah acknowledged to the Assembly that she had initially given Greene permission to use the laptop, but said Greene had not made it clear to her at the time that he would go to different tables in O’Donovan Hall to encourage voting.

“If I had known what I found out later I would have said no right then,” Sinnarajah said.

Sinnarajah said in an interview last night that the commission may have made mistakes in organizing the election.

She faulted the Assembly for not communicating with the commission during the election and said that she felt disrespected by Assembly members during her testimony.

“It’s like a slap in the face,” she said of the vote.

Sinnarajah said that the commission will work with the Assembly to develop a new timetable for the next election. She said that it is not yet clear whether the next election will be between the three tickets in the last election or if it will be opened to all students again.

Duffy said that Assembly hopes to revise the bylaws before the next election to prevent further disputes. The Assembly passed sweeping reforms to the bylaws two years ago following the disputed 2004 election.

HOYA Staff Writer Stephen Santulli contributed to this report.

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