The Joint Elections Commission has delayed next week’s Student Association elections.
JEC Commissioner Fatima Konte said during a meeting for candidates Tuesday that the commission postponed the campaign period and elections, which were slated for next Wednesday and Thursday, to a “tentative date” while a definitive timeline remains to be set. She said the delay will give the Student Court time to respond to a pair of complaints that incumbent SA President Christian Zidouemba and GW Entrepreneurship Club leader Mohamed Redzuan Bin Mohamed Raffe filed Tuesday after the JEC disqualified them from the race for SA president because of issues with their candidate petition forms.
“Ignore the timeline,” Konte said at the meeting. “We’re not doing that anymore.”
The JEC ruled Monday that Zidouemba violated election bylaws in impersonating a rival candidate when gathering signatures for his petition, leaving his name off of the top of his petition sheets. One of Zidouemba’s petition sheets that The Hatchet obtained shows Rowe’s name crossed out in the candidate slot and Zidouemba’s name written above, and another appears to have the letter “K” crossed out in the same spot with Zidouemba’s name written to the right.
The commission removed Raffe from the race after discounting signatures he collected from students who did not include their GWIDs in the appropriate slot of the petition sheet, putting him below the 385-signature threshold to make the ballots as a presidential candidate.
Konte said the JEC would “maybe” have an updated election date by their Friday meeting, and the JEC will hold an emergency meeting in the meantime to further deliberate. SA bylaws require the SA Senate to confirm the dates of the elections, which must end by April 14. The senate’s next regularly scheduled meeting is April 10, according to the senate’s schedule.
Konte said the JEC delayed the elections “due to a multitude of reasons including direct requirements in the JEC bylaws.” She said she did not “believe” appeals to the Student Court would affect the election timeline.
“We will let you know as soon as we know when the campaign period will start,” she said.
Student Court Chief Justice Devin Eager declined to comment.
Konte said candidates will still have the full 10 days to campaign that the SA bylaws require.
The JEC postponed the 2017 SA elections by one week, from March 29 and 30 to April 5 and 6, after candidates running at the time filed a “large volume of complaints” against one another. All SA presidential and vice presidential candidates, their campaign managers and the JEC met with officials to reportedly dissuade candidates from negative campaigning.
Konte said the JEC is delaying the elections “for a multitude of reasons,” but did not specify the reasons. Konte said the JEC will issue a statement once the new election date is set.
Aidan Spencer, a sophomore running for a CCAS-U senate seat, said the JEC declined to add him to the ballot Tuesday morning, discounting signatures from students who did not include their college in the appropriate slot of his petition, which knocked him below the necessary threshold. Spencer was listed on the JEC’s website as of Monday night as a candidate pending JEC approval.
Konte said at the candidate meeting Tuesday the ballot for the CCAS-U senate race is set with seven verified candidates, with Spencer not included.
“This is why students are worried about getting involved in the SA,” Spencer said in a statement to The Hatchet about his disqualification.
JEC Commissioner Michael Ubis said the JEC is in the process of writing an advisory opinion that will propose the new dates for the SA elections and other JEC-sponsored campaign events, like the debate and postering day. At the JEC’s meeting for verified candidates Tuesday, candidates raised concerns about the new campaign period potentially conflicting with Passover, which begins April 5.
SA Vice President Yan Xu said he was “not aware” that the JEC had delayed the elections as of an hour after its announcement but will provide an update as soon as possible about when the senate will meet to approve an election date. Senate Chairperson Pro Tempore Demetrius Apostolis, CCAS-U, said the senate will schedule its emergency meeting to confirm the new election date after the JEC officially requests it.
Zidouemba said in a statement to The Hatchet that the complaints filed against the JEC reflect its failure to operate as intended.
“The overwhelming number of complaints lodged against the JEC is a clear indication of their incompetence and lack of accountability,” he said. “As a result, I am compelled to appeal the JEC’s decision and submit a ballot statement, in the hope that justice will prevail and that I will be reinstated as a qualified candidate.”
Although the SA’s bylaws require the governing body to appoint all JEC members by the end of the fall semester, the commission remained unfilled until early February, leaving its members with a late start to prepare for SA election season. The SA Senate confirmed Konte and two other students as JEC members Zidouemba nominated in January before approving two final commissioners at its first February meeting.
The SA’s newly elected president is supposed to appoint the chair of the JEC nearly a year in advance of the SA elections during the spring semester of the previous year, and the senate must fill the position by Oct. 1 if the president has not already done so, according to the SA bylaws. The bylaws require the SA to appoint all five members of the JEC by the end of the fall semester.
Grace Chinowsky and Faith Wardwell contributed reporting.
This article appeared in the March 30, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.