Former SA presidential candidate protests SA election results in Student Court

A former candidate for Student Association president filed an injunction with the Student Court Monday, disputing last week’s election results and requesting a runoff election.

Junior Hannah Edwards said she requested the runoff between herself and SA President Brandon Hill, the winner of the election, because the results were “not consistent with the voter breakdown.” She said in a video posted to Instagram that Hill had an incumbency advantage in the race, and she has started a petition requesting student support for the runoff before the next SA term begins.

“Even with the incumbent advantage, the margins were slim,” Edwards said in a video posted to her campaign Instagram Monday. “It’s for these reasons that I have filed an injunction with the Student Court to stop the transition of power from President Hill to himself.”

She said a runoff should be held because she and Hill were the only two candidates ranked as first or second choice by more than 50 percent of the votes. In the first round of ranked-choice voting, Hill received 38.6 percent of first-place votes, Christian Zidouemba received 23.1 percent, Edwards received 22.4 percent and SA Sen. Charles Aborisade, U-at-Large, received 15.8 percent.

Edwards said in the injunction that the virtual election this year made outreach to the student body difficult for candidates, giving the sitting president an advantage in the race.

“Given that this year’s election took place entirely online, attempts to reach out to the student body were even more limited, and name recognition and overall access almost certainly played a role in the outcome,” Edwards said.

In a ranked-choice voting system, the candidate with the least number of first place votes is eliminated from the race, and the remaining candidates proceed to the next round until a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.

Aborisade was eliminated in the first round of voting and Zidouemba was eliminated in the second round. Hill notched 54.8 percent of the vote over Edwards in the final round, clinching the win.

Edwards released a petition Monday requesting student support for a run off election. The petition has accrued more than 50 signatures as of Monday.

Edwards said she wants to gather 1,050 signatures, equaling one-third of the number of voters in last week’s election, within 72 hours of the survey’s release, according to the injunction.

“Obtaining this amount of signatures would demonstrate to the JEC and the Student Court that a runoff election is something that the student body supports and ultimately, these are the voices that matter,” she said.

Edwards is requesting the court take one of three actions regarding the results.

The first option is to require the Joint Elections Commission to host a runoff election between Hill and Edwards, and the second option is to halt the transition of power from Hill’s first term to his next term and require the JEC to host a runoff, according to the injunction filed with the court. The third option is to halt the transition of power and require the JEC to hold a runoff if Edwards’ petition reaches 1,050 signatures in 72 hours.

“Regardless of the outcome of the runoff election, I just want to make sure that every voice is heard and that every vote is counted,” Edwards said. “For the sake of transparency, I think it’s important to hold the JEC and the Student Association accountable, but ultimately this decision is up to you.”

Edwards said it’s “important to set a precedent” for incumbent SA presidential candidates because the SA president and vice president are both paid positions, and the SA bylaws do not have restrictions on incumbent candidates.

“I want to stand up for what I think is right, and there’s a lot of people who have expressed to me concerns, like senators as well, about the election or the appearance of it, and I just thought that I will take one for the team,” she said.

Hill said he denies that he had an incumbency advantage and believes that his campaign was held to a “higher standard” than the other candidates because of his current role as SA president. He said Edwards ran a “hard-fought” campaign, but her request for an injunction is “not the right thing to do.”

“The rhetoric being thrown around right now is very damaging and lacks ground,” Hill said. “This is a time for unity and progression and contesting a fair and just election that we all signed up for will only divide us.”

Riham Yousif, the court registrar, confirmed the court had received Edwards injunction and said the court is “looking into” her request.

Joint Elections Commissioner Chloe Wagner declined a request for comment.

Makena Roberts contributed reporting.

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