Charles Nailen/The Hoya GUSA candidates Brian Morgenstern (COL `05) and Steve de Man (COl `04) win the election with 34.8 percent of the vote.

Garnering 34.8 percent of the 2,756 votes cast in Tuesday’s election, Brian Morgenstern (COL ’05) and Steve de Man (COL ’04) won the race for GUSA president and vice president. After the results were announced, the other two tickets were disqualified for violating election rules.

Rob Hutton (SFS ’04) and Nazareth Haysbert (SFS ’05), who received 28.8 percent of the vote, and Steve Palmese (MSB ’04) and Tim Nunziata (MSB ’04), who received 27 percent of the vote, sent e-mails that violated campaign rules, resulting in their disqualification. Immediately after GUSA Election Commissioner Ramya Murali (SFS ’03) announced election results, candidates met in the Student Association office in Sellinger Lounge to learn of the candidates’ violations.

The disqualification came one day after election officials left 280 transfer students off the master list for the e-mail ballots that were sent out early Monday morning, extending the election until Tuesday at 8 p.m. for these students who had been prevented from voting. Voter turnout was 10 votes lower than last year’s 2,766 votes.

“We are proud of the campaign that we ran.”

“We’re looking forward to next year and we can’t wait to make Georgetown a better place,” orgenstern said after learning of his election victory Tuesday night.

Morgenstern and de Man said that their first job would be to fill the more than 100 appointed seats for the Student Association. They will extend the deadline until Mar. 6 to accommodate as many applications as possible.

“We know there is room for improvement in the [election] process,” Morgenstern said. “However, I will say that we are proud of the campaign that we ran, and we thank the election commission for their best efforts at making it a fair election. We’d also like to thank all those who helped and endorsed us.”

Morgenstern and de Man ran on a platform that included proposals to bring a student pub, lounge and entertainment venue to the space currently used for the New South cafeteria, the extension of GUTS bus routes, the creation of an alumni connection Web site, an end to the 24-hour lockdown and a proposal to bring three home basketball games to McDonough Arena.

The winning ticket added that they plan to establish a commission to write new and improved election bylaws “very soon.”

Two Tickets Disqualified

Luis Torres (COL ’05), a sophomore GUSA representative and campaign manager for Hutton-Haysbert, said that after the election had been extended for the 280 students who could not vote on onday, confusion over who would publicize the election led to the disqualification.

“After the election commission extended voting, the election commissioner told candidates that they were not to campaign and tell students to vote for them,” Torres said. “At the same time, the commission would not advertise other than e-mailing the students who were eligible to vote.”

Torres asked the Center for Minority Affairs to send an e-mail to its list-serve informing students of the chance to vote. The e-mail was found to be in violation of campaign rules, resulting in the disqualification.

“Why were we disqualified if it’s not the election commission’s responsibility to advertise and when the candidates can’t advertise?” Torres asked. “Who’s going to tell the students to vote on Tuesday?”

The e-mail did not support a candidate but did include a link to Torres’ GUSA website. “It was a lapse of judgment if I violated any rules, but I don’t think that any rules were violated,” he said.

Palmese and Nunziata had been disqualified for sending out a “thank you” e-mail to students who they had visited during the campaign, which had been pre-approved by Murali, according to David Gutnik (SFS ’04), campaign manager for the ticket.

“We consider these reasons to be completely unfounded and suspect,” he said.

Murali declined to comment on either disqualification.

Challenging the Results: A Second Election?

Hutton said he was frustrated that administrators had not taken action to find out who had circulated a personally disparaging e-mail days before the election. If the e-mail had been sent from a campaign, it could be grounds to challenge the results.

“My contention was already raised to certain administrators who have all but ignored it and who after the personal damage done to me have taken no steps that they were perfectly justified to do,” he said.

Both campaign managers alleged that discrepancies caused as a result of the two-day election are grounds for challenging the election and calling for a second election.

At a closed door GUSA meeting last night, Murali and Justin Palmer (COL ’03), administrator of the Saxa Server used to conduct the online election, presented their findings with the assembly.

Gutnik alleged that early election returns broadcast on GUTV Tuesday may have affected voter turnout, impacting the election results. In addition, Gutnik said that as many as 300 students may have been unable to vote due to technical problems.

“In the end, the biggest problem with this election was that students were disenfranchised,” Gutnik said. “There were too many students who tried to vote, but could not . If the next president of GUSA is to be a legitimate one, the only solution is a new and fair election.”

Torres and Hutton agreed that a new election is needed in order to ensure legitimacy for GUSA.

“I think it would only be fair [to have a second election],” Hutton said.

However, the disqualification may hamper efforts to challenge the election, according to Torres.

“The disqualification makes it more difficult for us to challenge the election. Now we have to challenge the disqualification before we can challenge the election. Essentially, it makes it more difficult to challenge the final results,” Torres said. “I can’t help but be suspicious.”

Murali and Palmer said that they see no reason to prevent certification of the election results and that all technical problems had been corrected.

“We have not received any formal complaint that would justify a decision to delay our presentation of the election results to the GUSA assembly and force them to postpone a vote on certification of the results,” Murali said.

Next Tuesday at the GUSA assembly meeting, the election commission will present the results of the election to the GUSA assembly, which will then choose whether or not to certify the election results, Murali said. If the election results are not certified, GUSA may entertain the prospect of having a second election.

“We are not considering a second election at this time. We’ve heard all the different opinions that have been presented. After consulting with Justin and others, we will present the results to the assembly. If they choose not to certify the results for whatever reason, or to have a second election, then that is their decision to make, not ours.”

Murali added that technical problems with the voting on Monday and Tuesday were resolved when voters contacted Palmer.

At a GUSA assembly meeting Tuesday evening, Hutton raised the possibility that students could have voted multiple times by typing in the link to the voting site, circumventing the email that had been sent to each student. Palmer said that he had not heard of students voting multiple times.

“The highest number of votes that came from a single computer was six. This was an off-campus address, probably a group of people who were sharing a net connection. So, if this was really a problem, wouldn’t you expect to see a much higher number than six?” Palmer said. “I tried hard to duplicate this `problem’ [of students voting multiple times] and couldn’t. If someone can, I would be interested in seeing it.”

Palmer said that the results were never intended to be viewed by students and that once he learned that students had accessed the site and that results were appearing GUTV, he restricted that Web page.

Gutnick alleged that some students who tried to vote were told that they had already voted. Palmer, however, said he never received complaints about that specific problem.

Gutnick also alleged that students who e-mailed Palmer never received a response from him. Both Palmer and Murali flatly deny any accusation that there were e-mails that Palmer did not reply to.

“All of those people who contacted us got a response with the fix,” Palmer said.

“From what I know in working with Justin, there was no one else who couldn’t vote [because the server would not allow them to],” Murali said. “The e-mail sent out with the link to vote from Justin said that anyone experiencing difficulties should e-mail him and it also gave my e-mail. He did receive e-mails notifying him of problems that people had, and he replied to all those e-mails with a solution to the problem.”

Palmer dismissed accounts of voter disenfranchisement. “I think it’s important to put this in perspective. We’re talking about evidence vs. hearsay,” he said. “Almost 3,000 people voted successfully. And the voter turnout is virtually identical to last year’s. Every problem Saxa responded to was either related to the incomplete list (which has been discussed a lot) or someone not following voting instructions.”

This year’s election controversy comes on the heels of last fall’s confusion with freshman representative elections, where certification was delayed for one month while the election commission investigated allegations of racism and sabotage.

Stepping Down

Outgoing GUSA President Kaydee Bridges (SFS ’03) offered advice to the president and vice president-elect.

“Delegate,” she said. “It is going to be physically impossible for you to be at all the meetings you’re requested to go to and still make it to your classes. Ask the relevant committee chairs or cabinet members to go to the ones you can’t make. Remember that it is your responsibility to attend these. You’ve been elected to represent 6,000 students. Take it seriously because if you don’t go to the meeting, they aren’t being represented.”

She also suggested that the new student leaders appoint capable cabinet and committee chairs, read student newspapers, keep in touch with students, pay attention to progress on platform goals and get to know university administration.

Bridges said she was pleased with her administration’s accomplishments, which included building online syllabi, implementing online add/drop, securing New South to be a Student Union, putting computer terminals in Sellinger Lounge, launching, holding off-campus housing forums and increasing lighting on campus.

“I regret we couldn’t get everything in our 18-page platform done, but most of the stuff that didn’t get completed was beyond our control,” she said.

Bridges said that she and Mason Ayer (SFS ’03) will help transition the new administration in while tying up loose ends. “One of my goals is to get some pictures or artwork up in Sellinger so it doesn’t look like such a sterile airport lounge,” she said.

Election Dertification?

GUSA’s meeting Tuesday night to certify or reject the election results will offer candidates and students a chance to voice their concerns about the election or about a possible second election. Murali said that the constitution and by-laws are vague about how to conduct a second election. GUSA’s constitution stipulates that results must be certified within ten days of the election.

Eight of the 16 representatives in the assembly worked on one of the campaigns, which may complicate the decision. A decision has not yet been reached as to whether these representatives will have to recuse themselves from the vote.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Comments are closed.