The student body elections are “null and void,” according to the Student Government Supreme Court.
The 3-1-1 ruling came after a hearing that spanned weeks and featured several witnesses, piles of documents and a request for a mistrial backed by the opinion of USF General Counsel.
The ruling has put SG in uncharted waters and has even raised the eyebrows of officials in Student Affairs, which has said the Court’s decision may not be the last word.
If the election is ultimately nullified, it would be as though it never happened at all, and theoretically, a new election cycle would have to begin.
The Court issued its decision late Friday night citing that the Election Rules Commission, which governs all aspects of student body elections, severely violated its own governing documents.
The ERC was also accused of bias in favor of student body President-elect Frank Harrison and his Vice President-elect Faran Abbasi, but the Court did not find in favor of that charge.
Chief Justice Kristina Lawrence declined to comment on specifics of the decision-making process. The Court’s official full explanation is due to be released by the end of the week along with the dissenting opinion.
According to Dean of Students Tom Miller, the Court’s ruling isn’t necessarily the final word in the situation, but rather one opinion to take into consideration.
“We have two conflicting views,” Miller said. “The ERC says the election is valid, and the Court says it’s not valid.”
He added that what the University needs to do is examine both views, look at how each came about and figure out which will stand. He said SA may look for other views on the situation from other parts of SG.
In regards to possible action by SA, Lawrence said the Court did its job and she cannot comment on what other University entities are doing.
In the midst of the hearing to determine the election’s validity, the ERC went ahead and certified the election results that had Harrison and Abbasi victorious. Some have specifically questioned the validity of the certification, which has added additional questions to the already confusing situation.
Harrison said, despite the Court’s ruling, he is confident that he will be the student body president at the end of the semester.
“As far as Faran and I are concerned, this is not a legitimate decision,” Harrison said. “We’re going to go ahead and move forward with our transition process.”
The most discussed possible result of the Court’s decision is to start over from the beginning and hold a new election, but no one is quite sure what will happen next.
Miller said SA may have to help SG answer the questions that have been brought to light by the unprecedented situation.
“If within the realm of Student Government this could be resolved, that would be swell,” Miller said. “It looks to me, at least superficially, they’re at a loggerhead.”
Miller said that SA would not make any decisions until it closely examines every aspect of the situation. Miller said he spoke with Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Capeheart-Meningall over the weekend and also said USF President Judy Genshaft would be briefed on the situation and could weigh in on the situation if she pleased.