The student court postponed runoff elections for Student Association president and executive vice president for two weeks after presidential candidate Alexis Rice asked the Joint Elections Committee to recount votes from last week’s elections.
The JEC announced earlier in the week it inaccurately tabulated election returns, and said Rice was one vote short of the required 40 percent to win the presidency outright. She will face Phil Meisner in a runoff, originally scheduled for this Tuesday and Wednesday.
In addition, the JEC said Derek Grosso received more votes than Cat Sadler for SA executive vice president and will face Caity Leu in the runoff.
In an order from Chief Judge Matt Leddicotte Sunday, the court postponed the runoff until March 24 and 25, following the undergraduate spring break. In addition, he announced the court will appoint independent observers Wednesday who will monitor the recount of the presidential election. The court did not require a recount for EVP because it was not requested to do so.
But the court gave the JEC until the day before the runoff to finish its recount. Rice, who asked for votes to be recounted Sunday and for the runoff to be held as scheduled, said that deadline is unfair.
“You never know with this JEC, we may not know until (March 23),” Rice said. “We’re talking about whether or not I am a candidate. It costs money and takes time and effort to run a runoff campaign and I may not even be in a campaign. I want the recount to happen now.”
Leddicotte said the court gave the committee as much time as possible to finish its recount.
“We realize the issue of when the report must come back (with recount results) is the night before,” Leddicotte said. “We certainly considered the closeness of time. We have to mesh time with what we thought was an appropriate judgment remedy-wise.”
Although JEC members had no comment on the decision, JEC counsel Adam Kinsinger apologized for the counting error.
“There were errors and there were mistakes, we just can’t deny that,” Kinsinger said to the court.
JEC members said they made mistakes Wednesday night. JEC Chair Jason Miller said all of the members had not slept in days, which led to miscounting.
“The fact that eight people were overwhelmed with 1,600 ballots is not a reason to invalidate this election,” Kinsinger said.
All members, including the three who resigned this week, said they stood by the numbers released Friday (see related story).
“I understand people being upset by this,” Kinsinger said. “I was going to do what it took to make sure elections were done fairly.”
The news of the changes in the recount Friday shocked many candidates and their staff members, who were forced to reorganize days after either basking in victory or accepting defeat. Many candidates met Saturday afternoon to ask questions and find solutions to the problem.
“I was declared the winner, so I started making plans for my executive cabinet, and now I find out I have to start campaigning again,” Rice said. She said she had thrown out her campaign literature.
“We have a JEC that is inadequate, members that have resigned in disgust and a student body that deserves a fair and honest election,” she said.
Rice said students’ frustrations with the recent turn in events have helped to mobilize her campaign, but things should be different this time.
“We need to look at how secure the results have been because of all the write-in ballots, we need to put candidates on the ballot if we do a runoff so we can use the voting machines,” she said. “Voting machines don’t lie.”
Meisner said although he was happy to have a second chance, he was disheartened. And he was unsure whether the runoff should proceed or whether the elections should be invalidated completely.
“If we have a whole new election, we have elections on the eve of transition,” he said. But Meisner said it would have been “sketchy” to hold the runoff this week.
Sadler said the JEC’s mistakes have hurt all the candidates.
“I think that the JEC has made egregious mistakes that have affected an incredible amount of people,” she said. “Both Phil and myself have tried not to take it personally. At the same time, it’s very difficult not to be hurt on a personal level.”
Sadler said the root of the problem stems from the JEC’s decision to remove her and Meisner from the ballot last week. More than 1,600 write-in votes were cast, creating the confusion.
Grosso, who was reinstated in the runoff, said while the JEC did make some mistakes, he does not believe malicious intent was involved.
“(The JEC) did follow procedure and they did their best,” Grosso said. “I do not think they are corrupt. There’s no way to prove that. That’s not what the JEC is about. They are just doing their job.”
Leu said the extended campaign season is a curse, not a blessing.
“It’s putting a pinch in my wallet and hurting my school work,” Leu said. “They didn’t (grant an injunction against) campaigning, so we will have to spend even more money in the next couple of days.
Student court Judge Jahna Hartwig said she understands Rice’s and Leu’s complaints but was left with no other choice.
“If it were feasible to appoint independent observers and have elections Tuesday and Wednesday, we would have done it,” she said. “It’s impossible to appoint independent observers and get a recount done in time for the scheduled runoff elections.”
-Steven Postal contributed to this report.