USF’s student body presidential races have a tendency to get a little bizarre. For the past three years, the Student Government supreme court has intervened in all USF student body presidential elections. It has become the norm for numerous presidential candidates to be disqualified from elections and then re-qualified during the course of campaigning.
The Election Rules Commission (ERC) oversees the races; it is responsible for policing campaigns each year. The commission ultimately decides what tickets get disqualified and why.
Tonight, the SG senate will confirm a new ERC supervisor of elections, who will oversee the elections this spring.
Senators will choose a supervisor of elections out of a handful of applicants after a brief question-and-answer session with each one.
The confirmation is coming later than expected due to an underwhelming interest in the position. Student body President Maxon Victor said the problems stem from the ERC being viewed in a negative light since its most visible duty is to punish and disqualify candidates.
“Nobody wants to be the prosecutor or the condemner,” Victor said. “That somehow became the image and the identity of the ERC, but that’s not what the ERC is about at all and that’s not what their intent and motive is.”
The last three student body presidents – Victor, Bijal Chhadva (2004-2005) and Omar Khan (2003-2004) – were disqualified at some point during their campaigns before ultimately winning their respective elections.
Candidates disqualified by the ERC can appeal the decision to the SG supreme court, which in most cases nullifies the disqualification.
In 2004, the court upheld the disqualification of Mike Mincberg’s ticket for using a logo that bore a striking resemblance to the SG logo after the ERC ordered them not to.
That disqualification was later overruled by an agreement made between SG as a whole, the USF Board of Trustees and Mincberg’s ticket. According to then-Supervisor of Elections Andrew Read, the agreement was made because the Mincberg ticket threatened legal action. In a March 24, 2004, issue of The Oracle, Read said the agreement “states that they won’t sue us if we let them back in.”
In 2003, the runoff election results were withheld, and it was announced that both Khan and his opponent, Mike Berman, were disqualified.
Khan’s ticket was disqualified because a friend of his allegedly handed out campaign fliers during a class. Berman was disqualified because one of his campaign workers allegedly sent a threatening e-mail to Khan’s vice presidential running mate, Ryan Morris.
Both candidates appealed their disqualifications to the SG supreme court.
After hearing both cases, the court made no official decision and decided to let the vote counts from the runoff stand. Possible bias on the part of the justices was cited as the reason for no ruling. Khan’s ticket won the runoff by a vote of 1,261 to 1,259.
Chhadva was disqualified after being announced the winner in the runoff against Brandon Faza’s ticket in the 2004 election by a vote of 1,769 to 1,606. The ERC chose to disqualify him after it received numerous allegations that Chhadva intimidated voters during his campaign. The SG supreme court overruled the disqualification, and Chhadva went on to become student body president.
Victor’s ticket was disqualified during the runoff election in the spring for allegedly using SG resources to further his campaign. He appealed his disqualification to the SG supreme court.
After meetings behind closed doors, the ERC decided to lessen Victor’s punishment and reinstate him in the runoff that was taking place. Victor’s ticket beat then-student body Vice President Andrew Aubery’s ticket by a vote of 2,473 to 1,625.