On March 19, currently disqualified Student Government Association (SGA) presidential candidate Elisabet Ortiz (24C) publicized that she was removed from the election due to her status as a gap year student. Ortiz plans on appealing the decision to the Constitutional Council. 

Ortiz’s disqualification and the resulting student outcry surrounding this year’s SGA elections raises questions of how SGA conducts its elections. As a result of confusing and vague wording surrounding eligibility rules and the inconsistencies in SGA governing documents, issues around the validity of the current election have been brought to the forefront. Both the Board of Elections and SGA must act swiftly to rectify the current confusion and chaos felt by students.

 In light of the current debacle, the Elections Board must delay the election. Currently, Ortiz is campaigning for a vote of no confidence and the Constitutional Council has yet to reach a verdict on her disqualification. If students show up to the ballot with the election chaos in mind, there will not be a fair election. Ortiz deserves a fair election, as do all the candidates in the running, and they cannot have one until the Constitutional Council reaches a verdict regarding whether Ortiz’s disqualification was valid. Students should only show up to the ballot with one thing in their mind — who the best candidate is for the job. Until the Constitutional Council makes a decision, students will be casting votes on whether they believe this election is fair, not who they believe should be the next president. 

The Board of Elections should also change their turnaround process to better aid candidates in the future. Ortiz was notified that she was ineligible after several days of campaigning which included participating in Wheel Debates and publicizing her campaign on social media and around campus. Due to the intensive time commitment that being a candidate requires, the late notification was unfair to Ortiz. Although the Elections Board clarified that candidates should check their own eligibility, the vague wording and jargon within the Constitution and the Code of Elections means that requirements of eligibility might be confusing for candidates. A simple fix would be for the Elections Board to determine candidate eligibility at the time of declaration in order to prevent arduous time and energy on behalf of the candidate, should the candidate be deemed ineligible. 

But the problem extends beyond this election; our very own governing documents must be fixed to ensure fair and equitable elections. Currently, there are discrepancies between the SGA Constitution and the Code of Elections. Article VII, Section 2, Part A of the constitution states that the president of SGA must “be an undergraduate student enrolled at Emory University.” However, under Part IV, Article 1, Section A of the Code of Elections, “all candidates for the office of the President and Executive Vice President must be enrolled full-time at Emory University.” In other words, whether a candidate must merely be enrolled at Emory or enrolled full-time remains unclear. 

Though notifying Ortiz of her ineligibility prior to her investment of time and resources is obviously impossible at this point in SGA elections, it is possible to change the system so that this situation does not happen in the future. For one thing, SGA should amend the SGA Constitution to be consistent with the SGA Code of Elections, which states that students running for any position in student government must be enrolled as full-time students. This clarification would prevent confusion on behalf of the candidates and ensure that people ineligible for the election do not waste time and energy campaigning. 

Secondly, the Elections Board must take responsibility for their untimely delay in notifying candidates of their eligibility. Moving forward, the Elections Board should determine the eligibility of candidates at the same time as candidacy declarations to avoid miscommunication and prevent incidents like this one from happening again. The recent incident reflects both that SGA’s election code is complicated and inaccessible, but also that election ineligibility needs to be dealt with earlier than the week before elections. Ortiz’s sudden and late disqualification was unfair to Ortiz, the students that helped and supported her and the Emory student body, who expected and deserved a smooth transition of power in student government.

In order to ensure a fair and equal election, the SGA presidential election should be delayed until the Constitutional Council makes a decision. The mistakes this year reveal a flawed election system at Emory. But it doesn’t need to happen again.

Editorial Board Editor Demetrios Mammas (23C) serves as a chief of staff for the College Council and Editorial Board Chair Ben Thomas (23C) serves as chief justice of the Constitutional Council. Both recused themselves and none were involved in writing or editing this editorial.

The above editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s Editorial Board and Opinion Editor Sophia Peyser. The Editorial Board is composed of Rachel Broun, Jake Busch, Demetrios Mammas, Daniela Parra del Riego Valencia, Sara Perez, Ben Thomas, Chaya Tong and Leah Woldai.