September 30, 2014

Four Candidates Disqualified in S.A. Freshman Representative Elections

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The results of this year’s freshman representative S.A. elections were announced Tuesday, after being delayed due to deliberations about campaign rule violations that resulted in four candidates being disqualified, according to Kushagra Aniket ’15, director of elections for the S.A.

Aniket said that University guidelines prohibited him from going into detail about the specifics, but that three candidates violated elections and campus code chalking policies, and one violated campaign ethics policies. All four of the disqualified candidates — Julian Moraes ’18, Chris Li ’18, Kristen Lovely ’18 and Jung Won Kim ’18 — appealed the decision, but further committee deliberations led to the rejection of those appeals, Aniket said.

“The Committee determined that the violations warranted disqualification because they gave the candidates an unfair advantage relative to other candidates who did not violate the rules,” he said. “Thus the Elections Committee was obliged to disqualify the candidates in order to preserve the fairness of the elections.”

Lovely said she was disqualified because she chalked vertically on a flight of stairs near Balch Hall. Election and postering rules on Cornell’s website state that chalking is only allowed on “horizontal, concrete or asphalt surfaces where the rain will wash away the residue.”

Lovely said her actions came from “a legitimate difference in interpretation of the rules.”

“The rules stated are very ambiguous. I genuinely believed [the rule] meant that if it was a vertical surface where the rain could wash away the chalk, the chalking would be valid,” Lovely said. “I had seen many chalkings on those same stairs made by other student organizations, leading me to believe that it was not a violation of the policy.”

Lovely also said that she felt the elections committee should have made the rules “much more clear.”

“There was a large volume of information fed to candidates at [the pre-election] meeting and hard copies of the postering policy were not distributed. If the committee has intentions to disqualify candidates for things like vertical chalking, they should be sure to pass out a hard copy of the rules instead of expecting candidates to take note of every single clarified rule during such an information-heavy meeting,” she said.

Aniket said that rule violations “of some kind occur during every election cycle.”

“In the future, we plan to take more steps to improve the elections process for the spring elections. These might include reducing any confusion about the grammatical interpretation of certain clauses in the rules and guidelines,” he said.

The four winning candidates — Ben Bacharach ’18, Maria Chak ’18, Erinn Liu ’18 and Gabriel Kaufman ’18 — will take their oaths Thursday, according to Aniket.

Liu described this year’s elections as “very competitive,” noting that the S.A. placed “a lot” of emphasis on the campaign rules and that many people issued challenges regarding election rules violations.

“Candidates [were] being very serious about the rules. I think it’s a good sign because the election should be a fair game. Whoever broke the rules should be disqualified,” she said. “I am glad that [the] S.A. is taking so much effort and time to go through the process in order to make the result fair.”

Several candidates expressed dissatisfaction with the delay in the elections results.

Austin McLaughlin ’18, who ran in the election but lost, questioned how “the democratic process [can] be served when the public has been left in the dark for over a week.”

“It is my opinion that election results should be fair and delivered promptly. The public has a right to know what is happening in the democratic process. While there may be complications, it is imperative that the Elections Committee publicly address them as to not invoke criticism over vote altering or manipulation,” McLaughlin said.

He said he did not receive an email about the delay, as he “would have preferred.”

“Expectation management is an important aspect of any democratic process, which has not been seen in the freshman-at-large election,” McLaughlin said.

Jeremy Candelas ’18, who also ran in the election but lost, said the delay gave him a “mixed bag of emotions.”

“I think as candidates we’re all a little bit eager, a little bit frustrated and of course a little bit anxious pending the results of the election following the delay,” he said. “But I am sure that my fellow candidates would agree that it is better for the elections committee to carefully deliberate over each challenge as carefully as possible in order that each candidate is given a fair and equal opportunity in the elections.”