Election results overshadowed by grievances
Receiving 51.29 percent of the vote, Matthew Diaz and Zachary Johnson won the four-ticket race Thursday to become the next student body president and vice president, respectively.
However, whether they ultimately assume those roles will be at the discretion of the Election Rules Committee (ERC).
Four grievances filed against the Diaz-Johnson campaign before the close of polls Thursday will be heard by the ERC during a public hearing Tuesday at 12:45 p.m. in Marshall Student Center (MSC) Room 4100.
Student Government (SG) adviser Alyssa Thomas said the grievances can result in violations if the ERC finds that they break election Rules of Procedure (ROP).
“One major violation or three minor violations are grounds for a disqualification,” she said.
Thomas said at this point in the process, there is no president-elect.
Of the four pending grievances, competing candidate Jason Funes and his running mate filed one apiece. Candidate Melissa Leddy, in conjunction with running mate Christina McLaughlin and campaign director Chris Leddy, filed the other two.
Immediately following the election results announcement Thursday night, Diaz was in high spirits.
“I’m ecstatic, I’m happy to have seen the outpouring of support from our organizations, all of our friends (and) the student body,” Diaz said. “(Johnson and I) are looking forward to serving this student body as president and vice president. We were really surprised we were able to get half the student body to vote for us. We had a hunch that it might happen, but being there and having it be reality, it’s a real shock; it was great.”
Diaz declined to comment personally about the grievances, instead deferring questioning on the matter to his campaign director, Joseph Anastasio, who said the grievance claims are all unjustified.
“We refuted them (to the ERC) already,” Anastasio said. “We made a very good defense of how those claims are unjustified. We looked at ERC ROPs, we looked at (SG) statutes.”
A potential major violation was filed by Melissa, McLaughlin and Chris. Melissa said the Diaz-Johnson campaign violated an ROP against candidates hosting their own polling stations by going door-to-door in the Juniper-Poplar residence hall asking students to vote for Diaz. She said they also went a step further and asked students to log in to their Blackboard accounts to vote for the ticket on the spot.
“They should be disqualified for that,” Melissa said.
Included in the grievance as evidence is a Thursday morning e-mail, addressed to Thomas and sent from Assistant Resident Life Coordinator Caitlin Kirchner, informing SG that Diaz and Joana Sosa, a Diaz campaigner, were breaking housing policies by going door-to-door and campaigning.
However, Anastasio refuted the claim and said the ticket simply asked students to “vote for the person you feel is the best fit.”
“The definition of a mobile polling station is if a candidate has a laptop, a PDA or any other electronic device, and he’s walking up to people saying, ‘Vote for me, vote on this device, vote for me, vote for me, vote for me,’ so you’re like a walking polling station – that’s illegal,” Anastasio said. “What they’re claiming is that Matt went into the dorm, went to students on their computers and said vote for me. That is not the definition of a mobile polling station.”
The Leddy campaign also filed a minor violation. Melissa said various students and Resident Assistant Katie Zwingert reported that Diaz-Johnson campaigners were sliding fliers under doorways in Juniper-Poplar hall, violating ERC ROP.
“They chose the most condensed dorms on campus – Juniper-Poplar – that has the most students living there,” Melissa said. “They did it when polls were open, that gives them an unfair advantage, especially when the other campaigns are trying to run their campaigns with integrity and ethics.”
Anastasio said the accusations are unfounded.
“We would never do that, we know the rules,” he said. “We’re not stupid.”
Funes said he filed a grievance accusing a Diaz campaigner of handing fliers to voters outside MSC, a violation of the ROP that prohibits campaigning within 50 feet of a polling station.
In a separate grievance, James O’Connor, Funes’s running mate, accused Diaz of chalking outside of Kosove Hall, a zone that is labeled as restricted by the ERC, according to Funes. He said he has videotape evidence to prove both claims.
“In no way shape or form did we file these because we thought (Diaz) was going to win,” Funes said. “There has to be an even playing field; there has to be a fair opportunity for all of us to get our message across.”
A fifth grievance, submitted by O’Connor, has already been rejected by ERC Supervisor of Elections Andrew Uhlir. The grievance accused Diaz-Johnson campaigners of soliciting in unauthorized locations, in this case Avalon Heights apartment complex off campus. Uhlir said the claim was rejected because it dealt with an issue outside of the ERC’s jurisdiction.
“That’s more dealt with by the state or local (government),” Uhlir said. “That’s not really SG.”
Attached to the dismissed grievance was a letter from Judy Neracher, leasing manager of Avalon Heights, corroborating the claim that the ticket trespassed.
“(The ERC) said that is out of their jurisdiction, so they can’t really do anything about that, but in the statutes it says you can’t break any (Florida or federal laws),” Funes said. “You can’t do anything illegal in order to be campaigning.”
Voter turnout was up this year with a total of 6,001 students, compared to only 3,980 students last year. Diaz-Johnson collected 2,969 votes, Funes-O’Connor had 1,180 votes, Leddy-McLaughlin had 1,151 votes and Jason Prado-Kevin Tuttle had 492 votes. The remaining 209 voters elected not to select a presidential-vice presidential ticket.
Also on the SG ballot, the mandatory health referendum was voted down in a landslide, with 70.13 percent of voters opposing it. Voters chose Design 1 as the next “Our Shirt,” which displayed the slogan “United as one” across the front, winning with 52.6 percent of the vote. In addition, each candidate who ran for Senate was successful in their bid.
At Tuesday’s public hearing, Diaz-Johnson and the parties who filed the grievances will each have five minutes to speak to address their claims. The ERC will have an opportunity to ask questions of the parties involved and will rule on each grievance separately, with each ERC deputy having a vote. Uhlir will only vote in the event of a tie. If violations are assessed to a ticket, the ticket will have the opportunity to appeal the ERC’s decision to the SG Supreme Court.