This story has been updated to include comments from SGA President Lori Steffel (21B) and BBA Council President Emily Ferguson (21B).
The announcement and certification of the Student Government Association (SGA) presidential and vice presidential runoff election results will be delayed, the Elections Board confirmed to the Wheel on Thursday. Election runoff results were originally scheduled to come out Thursday night. The Board will put out a statement regarding this postponement within the next day.
The delay came after Fourth-year College Council (CC) Legislator Sun Woo Park (19Ox, 21C) filed a petition with the Constitutional Council Wednesday night alleging that current SGA President Lori Steffel (21B), BBA Council President Emily Ferguson (21B) and BBA Council Vice President-elect Katie Lee (22B) violated the Emory Code of Elections. Steffel and Ferguson both deny the alleged violations
In the petition, Park called for the SGA Presidential and Vice Presidential elections to be nullified. He claimed that Steffel and Ferguson violated the SGA Code of Elections by endorsing Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates Rhea Kumar (22C) and Nick Paschetto (20Ox, 22B). Park also accused Lee of violating the Code of Elections by endorsing Kumar and Pashetto while running for office.
Additionally, Park stated that there were “mass voter intimidation efforts” in a widely-circulated Instagram post.
The petition claimed that Steffel and Ferguson, who Park said are Elections Board members, violated Article 2 Section A and B of the Code of Elections. These sections state that Board members must sign waivers declaring their neutrality and commitment to abstain from supporting candidates in pending elections.
Steffel told the Wheel in a March 28 statement that she is not a member of the Elections Board and as SGA president, is prohibited from being a member. She wrote that she was never asked to sign a waiver saying she would not support a candidate.
She noted that her presence on a group chat of Elections Board members was the result of the Board lacking the quorum needed to certify uncontested fall election results.
“The Elections Board asked me in my role as SGA President to stand in and join with approximately ten other Election Board members to certify the results out of a desire for convenience and expediency,” Steffel wrote. “I was added to the Elections Board group chat and we certified the results. Since that one occasion, I have never utilized or participated in this group chat.”
In a letter to the editor published on March 28, Ferguson also stated that she is not a member of the Elections Board but is a divisional commissioner, meaning she represents her division and is not bound to the same neutrality rules as an Elections Board member.
“The divisional commissioner position is entirely different from that of an Elections Board member due to the lack of nomination, approval process and waiver requirement,” Ferguson wrote. “Divisional commissioners represent their divisions, whereas Elections Board members are selected by the SGA president and confirmed by the legislative body.”
According to Park, Lee violated Article 3, Section 4 of the Election Code, which states that “Party candidacy is prohibited in all elections of SGA and its establishments.” Article 3, Section 4 includes a clause that prohibits candidates from “promoting any other candidate for a position through means other than face-to-face verbal communication.”
Both Steffel and Ferguson publicly endorsed Kumar and Paschetto. Steffel appeared in an Instagram video alongside current SGA Vice President Mikko Biana (21C) in the endorsement. Ferguson had also appeared in campaign material and video endorsing Kumar and Paschetto, Park said.
“I want to reassure you that all the accusations I will make are true, and I have photographic, videographic and live witnesses willing to testify on my behalf,” Park wrote in a statement to the Wheel on Thursday. “We have a solemn, sacred duty to protect our democracy, and I will try my hardest to fight for you despite the efforts to silence me.”
Steffel responded to Park using both her personal Instagram account as well as the official SGA account, commenting on an Instagram post by Park where he summarized his claims about the election code violations.
“I’m trying to keep my distance, but this really feels like bullying,” Steffel wrote. “This is the first time I’m hearing about any concerns you have with me, and most of what you’re saying is misconstrued.”
In response, Park wrote “This is not bullying but the pursuit of the truth, which you know just as well as I do that you have blatantly attempted to hide from the people.”
Lee was not immediately available for comment.
Update (3/28/2021 at 1 p.m.): This article was updated to include a written statement from SGA President Lori Steffel (21B).
Update (3/28/2021 at 6:10 p.m.): This article was updated to include the contents of a letter to the editor from BBA Council President Emily Ferguson (21B).