[image courtesy of usnews.com]
By: Nate Discavage @DiscavageSavage
As the 2016 presidential election continues to supply controversy around the nation, the St. Bonaventure University Student Government Association (SGA) presidential election had a twist of its own.
Shockwaves were sent through campus late Monday night when SGA Executive Vice President-Elect Jessica Laursen posted on her Facebook page: “the results of the SGA Presidential Election of 2016-2017 were invalid.”
Laursen pointed to Article VIII, Section II, of the SGA Constitution states that election of the Executive “President…shall be chosen in the spring election by a majority vote.”
Although Laursen and President-Elect JW Cook earned the most votes (295 out of 721), they did not win a majority of 50% plus 1.
With three candidates in the race for SGA Executive President, it would have been difficult for any of them to secure a majority of the vote.
Anneliese Quinlan and Gabby Slavny took second in the initial election receiving 217 votes while Noah Burton finished a close third with 209 votes.
It was Burton who initially brought the issue to the university’s attention.
“I knew the whole election that the Constitution said that a majority was necessary for an individual to win and immediately after the election I tried to find out the exact numbers,” Burton said. “I believe that this situation proves the supremacy of the Constitution which will set a good precedent moving forward.”
Burton originally turned to the SGA Election Committee and Judicial Branch; however, after realizing that their terms ended on March 31, he reached out to the top.
Vice President of Student Affairs and SGA sponsor Rick Trietley said he was first notified Saturday night before meeting with all of the presidential and vice presidential candidates on Monday.
“I received confirmation from a member of the elections committee and Dr. [Danette] Brickman that a majority vote had not been achieved which is the standard that must be adhered to in accordance with the SGA Constitution,” Trietley said. “There is no current process within the SGA Constitution to rectify this situation. Thus…I had no choice but to exercise administrative authority.”
Quinlan said that the candidates faced two options at the meeting with Trietley: a runoff election or “a resolution signed by all five candidates stating the invalidity of the elections, but an agreement to recognize the results.”
Not all of the candidates agreed to the resolution, causing the runoff election.
“Our first choice was the resolution, we didn’t want to drag SGA through another election,” Quinlan said. “Gabby and I are still shocked at this news, but we agree with the administration that this will help foster SGA transparency.”
Following the rejection of the resolution, Burton stepped down, allowing a majority vote to be reached between Cook/Laursen and Quinlan/Slavny.
Tuesday morning, the university sent an email to St. Bonaventure students informing them that there would be a runoff election.
How could an issue with the election system slip through the cracks? All class officer and senate positions in SGA are determined by a plurality (the person with the most votes wins); however, Brickman says that the original framers of the current constitution never envisioned an executive race with more than two candidates.
“I reached out for Curtis Middlebrooks, a former SGA President (2007-2008) who was a leader in the writing of the 2008 Constitution. He had also never heard of anything like this ever happening. Neither of us can remember a time when we had three candidates running for an Executive Board seat,” Brickman said. “This is the only time that the ‘majority’ vote necessary would become an issue…Unfortunately, with three candidates it can easily result in a situation where no one candidate receives a majority and instead you have a candidate who clearly receives the most votes, but not a majority.”
Despite the need to campaign a second time, Laursen has not lost her resolve.
“I won’t give up. I haven’t given up. And I’m not going to stop fighting for the entire student body. What makes Bonas’ great is how we respond when faced with tough decisions,” Laursen said in her Facebook post. ” I am proud to be part of a community that is willing to choose the harder right over the easier wrong.”
Quinlan and Slavny are ready to take their second shot at winning the SGA presidency.
“We are excited at our second chance to lead SGA next year and look forward to another week of meeting students and hearing their thoughts on SGA,” Quinlan said.
The paper-ballot runoff election will occur Monday, April 11, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in front of the bookstore in the Reilly Center.