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We might be lying to you. We don’t actually know if Justin Monaco-Barnes will be your next MSU President. Given Sarah Jama’s disqualification, which she is appealing this week, it’s possible that if she is successful, the vote recount will tell us that Justin isn’t the winner of this year’s election after all. The truth is that for many people, including most of the candidates, the election isn’t over yet.
However, we made the conscious decision to give Justin the presidential cover page he deserves if he is, at the end of it all, still the president-elect. But we aren’t ruling out the possibility of having another presidential face on our cover next week either.
From an outsider’s perspective, these elections have been messy. However, more than anything else, we have been surprised by the shortcomings of the rules governing MSU elections. Several things have happened in the last week that point to the need for change in how elections are carried out.
The most glaring shortcoming was the public announcement of a candidate’s disqualification without providing clear and detailed reasons behind this conclusion. While the results of the elections were released when the Elections Committee finished their deliberations in the early hours of Jan. 29, the general rules that Sarah Jama broke that led to her disqualification were made public approximately 12 hours later.
The minutes for the meeting, however, are still not posted on the MSU website at the time of this writing. It’s understandable given that the Elections Department wants to make sure the information that they release is accurate and that those involved are also full-time students, but the lack of available information does a disservice to both candidates and the student body.
Currently, Jama’s post is the only place where a student curious about the events that have taken place can find a detailed account. The problem with this account is that it is told through the lens of a candidate who is appealing her disqualification. We emailed the CRO to ask her to confirm the details shared by Jama, however, she did not want to comment on the veracity of the post.
More than failing to provide students with information in a timely manner, the process as it stands now also tarnishes the reputation of the disqualified candidate. When appeals are filed right before the end of the elections period, the targeted candidate does not have the opportunity to respond to the complaint. In the case of severe violations, the candidate should absolutely have the opportunity to present counterevidence before a decision as extreme as this is made. Unfortunately, the current system allows for campaign sabotage, especially if the Elections Committee is failing to reach out to the campaign in question for information. There have been only two presidential candidates disqualified in the MSU’s history, and the last one, in 2008, was overturned following more than a month of discussion. It is clear that disqualifications are rare and the decision to disqualify a candidate should be carefully examined and as transparent as possible.
In a high profile disqualification such as Jama’s — one only has to look at the attention her page’s status on the disqualification has garnered — the current results of the election should not be treated as if they are official. While the MSU Elections Department makes it clear in their post that the results are unofficial, you wouldn’t know that looking at the posts Monaco-Barnes or any of the other candidates made on their Facebook pages.
Several things have happened in the last week that point to the need for change in how elections are carried out.
While we sympathize with the Election Department and Committee’s other responsibilities as students and understand that this is a sensitive process, we also think it is unreasonable to keep the student body in the dark so long after this decision was made. If the Elections Department is aware of its limitations, it should not make drastic announcements based on what appears to be incomplete evidence.