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The Blue & Gray Press | November 22, 2017

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Election Contested; Payne Wins Recount

HEATHER BRADY AND MILES DUMVILLE

Sarah Payne won the re-election for Honor Council president yesterday, defeating the previously announced winner, James Martin, by 63 votes. The election was reheld due to Payne’s contestation of the original March 26 results.

“You win some and you lose some,” Martin, a junior, said after the re-election. “In the end, I thought it was ridiculous that we had to have a new election after the people voted, and it would be hypocritical of me to reverse course just because I lost by a handful of votes the second go-around.”

Payne’s contestation concerned the way the elections were run.

“In the first election period for Honor Council President, I observed many possible violations due to a vaguely-worded constitution guiding elections,” Payne, a junior, said. “I appealed the election in the name of fair and honorable elections. I felt that a re-election was the best possible mechanism for the candidates to run a positive campaign.”

The contestation was initially submitted to the Election Rules and Procedures Committee (ERPC) of the SGA, a group that is tasked with regulating and maintaining the student government elections, who refused to grant it. Payne then appealed the ERPC’s decision.

The Judicial Review Board (JRB), the Mary Washington judicial authority, was in favor of Payne’s appeal, which called for a re-election and overturned the ERPC’s decision, based on the ability the Board was given this year to interpret the UMW constitution.

The executive cabinet then took over the responsibility of running the elections in light of accusations towards the ERPC from some members of the Honor Council. Despite being cleared by the JRB from accusations of violating the UMW constitution, the co-chairs of the ERPC resigned.

“We, as members of the Honor Council, know that it is wrong and against the honor code to claim credit for an idea that isn’t and was never yours, and to use exaggerated facts to gain votes,” Tais Gomez, a member of the Honor Council, said in an e-mail released to the Student Senate, which was later forwarded to the Bullet. “As a senior member of the Honor Council, who has nothing to gain from this election, I felt it was my obligation to my community to point out the truth.”
Some members of Student Senate questioned the constitutionality of the re-election.

Mike Isaacson, a student senator, quoted the description of the ERPC in the SGA constitution. He emphasized that if the SGA Executive Cabinet wants to assume control of an election, they must present their case to the Student Senate during a regularly scheduled meeting.

“Our meetings are on Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m.,” Isaacson said. “We handed over power of the elections on Sunday at 7 p.m.”

Sean O’Brien, president of SGA, said that the re-election was constitutional.

“The constitution allows for executive cabinet to take over the election, with the approval of Student Senate,” O’Brien said. “That approval was given. While I do not feel this is an optimal situation, taking into account the situation we are in, it was the prudent thing to do.”

He went on to discuss the abnormality of the situation at hand.

“To my knowledge, we are in an unprecedented situation where the entire ERP Committee has resigned,” O’Brien said. “It is also important to recognize that the new election needed to be conducted within a five-day window so that has complicated this situation.”

“The executive cabinet did what it needed to do,” Nick Perilla, president of the JRB, said. “The JRB did what it needed to do. The system was fair.”
“Elections are a complex and tumultuous process,” Payne said.

“Sarah will do a great job, and I’m really excited that we can finally move on from this election craziness,” Martin said after the results of the re-election were announced.

Payne garnered 53 percent of the vote, while Martin had 46.5 percent. 20.8 percent of the overall student body participated in the re-election.