The Spring 2018 Student Government Association (SGA) elections have been plagued by myriad issues, including changes in the date of the SGA presidential run-off; confusion over students’ voting status; unequal handling of late candidacy submissions; and formal challenges against two SGA presidential candidates. The Elections Board’s handling of these issues has revealed that the Board is unversed in its own procedures and ill-prepared to manage a fair election. By failing to equitably apply the regulations laid out in Emory’s Code of Elections, the Board brought into question the integrity of the process and sowed unnecessary confusion among students. Though Elections Board Chair Betty Zhang (20C) has declared her intention to resign, SGA’s problems are not over. With the conclusion of elections, the SGA legislature should investigate the rest of the Elections Board’s conduct and amend the Code of Elections to ensure that future elections are not marred by similar issues.
The Elections Board demonstrated a clear lack of procedural knowledge when it mistakenly invalidated the SGA presidential race on Friday, March 30, and called for a re-vote, only to reverse its decision hours later after SGA Speaker of the Legislature and Senior Representative William Palmer (18C) intervened; according to the Elections Code, the Elections Board cannot call for a re-vote.
Additionally, students were allowed to vote based on their official University class status, which is determined by the number of credit hours they have completed. This is a change from previous election cycles and it resulted in the disenfranchisement of juniors who have senior standing but will not graduate this Spring. Other classes also voted for the wrong representative because of this flawed system. For example, freshmen who had sophomore standing voted for a junior representative, but the junior representative will not serve them next year. The inability of some students to vote correctly because of their credit hours meant that the 2018 election results represent a skewed portrayal of student opinion. This shows poor decision making by the Elections Board, and SGA should immediately clarify any ambiguity that allowed the Board to structure the election in this erroneous manner.
The Elections Board allowed multiple candidates to run for office despite failing to declare their candidacies by the deadline. In a slew of ad hoc decisions, the Board allowed Marrios Karras (17Ox, 19B), Karen Lee (21C) and Radhika Kadakia (20C) to enter the races for SGA president, SGA sophomore legislator and College Council (CC) president, respectively. The Board permitted Lee and Kadakia to run on the precedent set when they allowed Karras into the election because of his claims that a spotty internet connection prevented him from declaring. Additionally, the Elections Board did not independently verify CC Vice President Naman Jain’s claim (18C) that if Kadakia were not allowed to run, the race for CC president would have been uncontested; in reality, two students had declared their candidacies for CC president. However, when Sania Chandrani (19B) attempted to run for SGA president, the Board prevented her from entering the race. Chandrani initially declared her candidacy on time for CC president, but was denied after a review found that she was ineligible for the position as a Goizueta Business School student. The Board then refused to allow her entry into the race for SGA president because the filing deadline had passed. This uneven application of rules calls into question the impartiality and competence of the Elections Board.
Additionally, the Elections Board hearing for challenges against SGA presidential candidates Dwight Ma (17Ox, 19C) and Mario Karras (17Ox, 19B) was scheduled for 1 p.m. on March 30, just eight hours before the close of the three-day voting period. During the hearing, multiple students contended that Zhang violated the Elections Code when she forwarded the name of one person who filed a complaint against Ma to the Wheel, even though he stated that he wished to remain anonymous. Zhang sowed further confusion during the hearing when she said that those who filed complaints could in fact remain anonymous even though the Elections Code does not address anonymous complaints.
The aforementioned issues are among several other problems that have affected this election, including a failure to send the declaration form to Lee, and the fact that the Board failed to clarify why the options for SGA senior legislator did not include the candidates names and were listed only as letters A, B and C.
This election was clouded by social media commentary, rumors and extreme disorganization. The Elections Board’s actions created a widespread distrust and confusion in the election process. More than 300 people have signed a petition calling for a recall of all student government elections as of 6:48 p.m. on April 3. The current Elections Board members’ failure to adhere consistently to the Elections Code and seeming lack of basic knowledge concerning SGA’s governing documents demonstrate that they are unprepared to run Emory’s elections. Emory’s student body deserves better.
The above Editorial represents the consensus opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.
The editorial board is composed of Nora Elmubarak, Andrew Kliewer, Madeline Lutwyche, Boris Niyonzima, Shreya Pabbaraju, Isaiah Sirois and Mathew Sperling.