Let the race begin, again

Some are confused. Some are frustrated. But, regardless, all the presidential candidates are back in the race.

An internal investigation by Student Government (SG) late Monday night found that there were voter irregularities where some students could vote more than once in the 2010 elections, which ended Friday, causing the results of the presidential portion to be thrown out.

There was supposed to be a runoff today and Wednesday between presidential candidates Andrew Cohen and Cesar Hernandez to decide who would be the next student body president.

However, there will now be a new election after spring break, said Gary Manka, adviser for SG. He said the Election Rules Commission (ERC) will handle coordination of the upcoming election.

Michael LeBlanc, supervisor of the ERC, did not return multiple phone calls from The Oracle on Monday night.

No other portions of the original ballot – senate seats or amendments – were affected by the glitch, Manka said.

LeBlanc informed Manka of the possible problem Monday. Students with two majors, each in a different college, were able to register and vote twice through their respective colleges.

Manka said he isn’t sure what actually caused the glitch, whether it was software related, USF system related with IP addresses or any other reason.

There were 4,235 tallied votes this year. Election officials and Manka went through each individual vote Monday to compare results for discrepancies. He then consulted with the SG Supreme Court, the ERC and SG Advising, Training and Operations.

LeBlanc notified all the candidates of the new election Monday night.

“We deeply apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused any of our candidates and their supporters,” Manka said in a statement.

Hernandez and running mate Spencer Montgomery received 32.5 percent, or 1,377, of the votes. Cohen and running mate Matthew Diaz received 25.3 percent, or 1,070.

“They’re saying there was something wrong with the voting, yet you have an entire year to prepare for voting,” Hernandez said after learning of the new election Monday. “You have an entire year to set things aside. You have an entire year to plan. You have an entire year to see what can possibly go wrong.”

Cohen said he was frustrated the mistake had not been caught.

“I don’t understand why the election was certified, and now we have to do it again,” he said.

By statute, the ERC supervisor is supposed to certify and sign off on election results. However, this year, Manka and other members in SG overruled and signed off on the election because of the “political intrigue,” meaning the high number of grievances filed this year against candidates during the race.

“Let’s be honest, the candidates didn’t play nice this year,” Manka said. “We felt that it was necessary to have a clean certification. Not because the ERC wasn’t clean but because we wanted to remove any form of bias.”

The latest grievance filed came late last week from presidential candidate Christopher Leddy and running mate Scott Howard, who came in third with 1,055, or 24.9 percent, of the votes.

They claim Cohen, SG director of University and Community Affairs, posted Facebook statuses endorsing his campaign while on the clock – a violation of SG statutes. Leddy, a senior double majoring in political science and history, and his campaign re-filed the grievances Monday.

“The evidence is pretty stacked against him. There’s really no reason why points shouldn’t be assessed,” Leddy said.

Cohen has an hourly wage funded through student-paid Activity and Service fees.

According to Facebook, his personal page was updated with “Vote Cohen Diaz” statuses and, following an official endorsement of the College Democrats and College Republicans, wrote this on the campaign’s fan page: “I think it speaks for itself that both organizations are endorsing us.”

He posted that comment at 1:15 p.m. on Feb. 18, according to Facebook. Cohen’s timesheet, which was obtained by The Oracle on Monday, shows he was on the clock on the same day from 12:15 p.m. to 5:25 p.m.

Cohen, who has been employed by SG since May 2008, said he could not confirm whether he posted on the Facebook page.

“The last three days have been the most intense days of my life … I’ve been so tired and hardworking that I don’t recall,” he said.

He said he did not know who else might have access to his Facebook account. Cohen was sanctioned five points by the ERC earlier in the election after presidential candidate Daniel Dunn filed 22 grievances against him. He’s appealing the points to the SG Supreme Court on Wednesday.

If a candidate is issued 10 points, he faces disqualification.

“What I often do is take my laptop down to the food court, and I must have jumped on Facebook at lunch and forgotten about it, that must’ve been what it is,” he said. “I don’t know. I’ve done everything I possibly could have done. Yet, every turn, someone is trying to stop the students’ ability to try and elect me.”

Manka said there have not been finalized dates for the new elections after spring break. The ERC will handle scheduling.

Dunn, a philosophy major who finished last with 240 votes, said his campaign is “up for it again.”

“We want a completely legitimate election. We don’t want any president to gain office shrouded in (this) false election, where people were able to vote twice,” he said.