Runoff election underway

Candidates filed more than 40 grievances against each other. Then, voting discrepancies prompted an internal investigation that delayed the election for two weeks.

After all that, the runoff for the 2010 Student Government (SG) presidential election is finally here.

Students can vote for presidential candidates Andrew Cohen and running mate Matthew Diaz or Cesar Hernandez and running mate Spencer Montgomery, starting today at 8 a.m. until Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Polling stations are located at Andros, Argos and Juniper-Poplar housing complexes, Cooper Hall, the Library Commons, College of Engineering, College of Business, College of Nursing, College of Public Health Lab, Marshall Student Center and Greek Village.

Students can also vote online at Voting is open online from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The location for Wednesday’s election results announcement is still to be determined, said SG Supervisor of Elections Michael LeBlanc.

“Hopefully, we can get a good voter turnout,” he said. “I know that everyone is a little tired of (voting), so that’s going to be difficult but this gives students another chance to decide who’s going to be leading them.”

The ballot will also include questions that gauge opinions on the Tampa Light Rail and whether USF should offer mandatory health insurance to students, said SG adviser Gary Manka.

The original runoff election between Cohen and Hernandez was scheduled to take place March 2 and 3.

But an internal investigation – ignited after students brought forward concerns of voter fraud – found that 255 of the 4,235 votes in SG’s general presidential election, including five candidates, were a result of students voting more than once.

A recount found that the actual number of votes amounted to 3,980, but the candidates’ ranking didn’t change, Dean of Students Kevin Banks said to The Oracle on March 3.

Hernandez received 1,289 votes (32.4 percent) and Cohen had 1,017 votes (25.5 percent).

Despite the runoff being pushed back, Hernandez, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, said he believes everything happens for a reason.

“It just shows you some of the kinks that we have to work on next year, and if I become president, I’m definitely going to be one of the forerunners in establishing a better election for the next year,” he said.

Cohen, SG director of University and Community Affairs, said he gave his all during the general election and is ready to give more.

“I think this is the time just for campaigning,” he said. “Let’s just give the students the facts, and let’s let them elect a leader.”

Former presidential candidate Daniel Dunn and his campaign filed 22 grievances against Cohen for violating campaign rules and the Student Code of Conduct.

But SG’s Election Rules Commission (ERC) only issued five points for a Facebook photo that showed Cohen, 21, holding what appears to be a handgun and a container of alcohol.

On March 3, Cohen appealed to SG’s Supreme Court who overturned the ERC’s decision.

Cohen filed six grievances against Hernandez and his campaign for violating SG statutes. The ERC issued five points against Hernandez’s campaign, but SG’s Supreme Court overturned the commission’s decision.

SG discovered students who had majors in two different colleges could vote more than once – some even voted three times, SG adviser Gary Manka said a “miscommunication” was the reason USF sent a list of registered ID logins that appeared more than once to Votenet, the company that hosted the online voting.

Manka said the problem has been fixed for this week’s election. SG will now have to decide if it will use Votenet for future elections, he said.

“We are going to compare and contrast vendors because our contract is up in December,” he said. “Votenet is actually a really good vendor. They’re really easy to work with, and they have really good products. It was really just a miscommunication more than anything else. If we stick with Votenet, we will have to recreate the ballots. It shouldn’t be a future issue.”