[media-credit id=2242 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]By: Nick Slater and Stephen MacLeod
A grievance was filed on election day, April 4, due to a Facebook post by Class of 2019 President-elect Matt Corso calling for members to vote for certain Executive Board candidates.
The grievance that was filed delayed election results for what is believed to be the first time in known history at Quinnipiac.
The post supported the campaigns of Ryan Hicks, Luke Ahearn and John Khillah who ran and eventually won for SGA President, Vice President of SGA and Vice President for Finance, respectively.
While Ahearn and Khillah won their respective elections by significant margins (Ahearn by 317 and Khillah by 422) the presidential race was decided by a mere 125 votes.
Grievances must be filed within 24 hours of the violation of the election policy and may be filed for a number of reasons, so long as a violation of SGA bylaws has occurred. Violations include but are not limited to spending over the $250 limit for a campaign or sabotaging another candidates campaign materials, according to SGA bylaws.
Junior Class Vice President and Presidential candidate Joe Iasso’s grievance challenged the merit of Hicks’ voter tally.
The issue Iasso brings up is the violation of the Article II of the SGA Constitution which states that candidate conduct during elections must reflect SGA’s values.
“By using a Facebook group dedicated to getting Quinnipiac students to spend a week in Punta Cana partying and drinking, I believe that the Election Policy was clearly violated by Matt Corso, a supporter of Ryan Hicks, Luke Ahearn and John Khillah,” Iasso said in his grievance.
Corso’s post, in the “Spring Break 2019!” Facebook group endorsing these candidates closely followed a different post that advertised a chance to win a “booze cruise” in Punta Cana.
Members of the group were allegedly misled by the post made by Corso, who is an administrator of the group. They thought if they voted for the endorsed candidates, they would be admitted to the sweepstakes, according to Iasso. Several comments were promptly deleted after they asked if voting would result in admittance to the sweepstakes, according to the filed grievance.
“Why delete the comments instead of replying to them and clarifying the meaning of the post?” Iasso wrote in his grievance. “To me, this is clear evidence of nefarious intent through intentional ambiguity.”
[media-credit name=”Chronicle File Photo” align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]After Iasso’s grievance was received by the Election Committee, investigation was underway. SGA recognized that the three candidates, along with Corso, were in fact in violation of the aforementioned bylaw and told Iasso there would be a revote Friday, April 6.
“I do not think it is fair to me, or to anyone, that a revote be conducted.” Iasso said in his grievance of the initial sanction. “Giving students the impression that they will win free alcohol if they vote for a candidate should not be tolerated.”
The Election Committee then revoked its initial statement that a revote would take place, and instead cross-referenced voters with the members of the “Spring Break 2019!” Facebook group. In the end, it was Director of Campus Life for Student Centers and Student Involvement Erin Twomey and senior Election Committee member, Velvet Chestnut, who made the call.
“After reviewing all information provided during the appeal process, Velvet and I have decided to overturn the initial sanction put in place by the election committee (revote),” Twomey said Monday morning in an email addressed to Iasso.
After the names were cross-referenced, the Election Committee determined that 65 voters were also members of the Facebook group and voted between the time the post was posted until it was deleted. Those 65 voters were deemed insignificant to the result of the election because Hicks won by a wider margin.
The cross-referencing was focused on the voters, rather than placing blame on candidates, according to Jacqueline Schmedel, SGA Vice President and Chair of the Election Committee.
Although all four men were found to be in violation, no further action is being taken according to Schmedel. She stated that this was because Hicks, Ahearn and Khillah were not the ones that made the post.
Since Corso was running unopposed, it was deemed that his post did not interfere with the results of a fair and equitable election, according to Schmedel.
“The election results were reviewed, cross referenced with the members of the Spring Break Facebook group, and it was determined that while the post may have influenced some students there was no way that it mathematically impact the results,” Twomey said in her email to Iasso.
In response to Iasso’s appeal, the Election Committee issued the following.
“A post was written in the Spring Break 2019! Facebook group. In the group previously, posts where Matt Corso, the admin, asked for a comment to be made upon completion of a task were coupled with prizes being awarded for a booze cruise. The post in question followed a similar format; from this, we have determined that students felt that if they voted in accordance with the post they had potential to win a booze cruise.”
Screenshots via Facebook:
There have been other instances of election policy violations during this election in which people had sanctions applied to them, according to Schmedel.
Similarly, there were other candidates in the election that experienced issues with the process. Freshman Representative Jamien Jean-Baptiste was not on the ballot for sophomore vice president for approximately 21 minutes due to a computer error.
Jean-Baptiste considered filing a grievance for the error but ultimately decided against it out of courtesy for Olamide Gbotosho, who was elected vice president of the class of 2021. SGA offered Jean-Baptiste the opportunity to file a grievance which would require that he rerun for the position, according to Jean-Baptiste.
Jean-Baptiste said he appreciates SGA’s offer and does not fault the organization for the error. He also said that he feels SGA handled his situation and Iasso’s to the best of its ability.
“The constitution that we are following was not necessarily created by us. These are policies that we are following, but I do believe that they are following them to the best possible way,” he said. “I do believe that they are doing a well job of handling these things, in terms of impeachment and appeals and grievances.”
Ahearn, while standing by the Election Committee’s decision, said he believes the process could have better.
“Every time a problem comes up, we learn how to handle them better,” Ahearn said. “This definitely was not the best process and definitely going forward (the process) is something that I am going to be committed to fixing.”
Corso, on the other hand, doubted the merit of the grievance.
“I don’t think it should have been filed.” Corso said. “(The Election Committee) did make a mistake in accepting that grievance.”
Corso explained how, once a grievance is accepted and heard, the grievance becomes a part of the Committee’s decision, which is able to be appealed.
[media-credit id=2242 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Despite Iasso’s allegations, Corso holds firmly that to violations were made.
“I still maintain to this day that I did nothing wrong,” Corso said. “(The post) was to garner attention of students who wouldn’t normally vote, as there is a low turnout for voting at this school.”
Corso also clarified in the comments of the controversial post that there was no connection between the election and any giveaways that the “Spring Break 2019!” group had previously endorsed. Khillah also gave his take on the grievances.
“Even though the grievances slowed down the process of finding the results, I was still assured that the election committee was doing the best they can to ensure a clean and fair election,” Khillah said over email. “Though it was aggravating to wait for the results to come out, we were comforted to know that the student body would have been assured a clean and fair election.”
President-elect, Ryan Hicks stated that he believes in the process the Election Committee followed and that the Committee would have acted if something was truly unfair.