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The Daily Tar Heel

Election blunder: Lawsuit exposed signi?cant error in election process

Two Student Congress candidates who lost in the election last week were right to sue the Board of Elections in the Student Supreme Court.

The case was dismissed Monday night. But the premise, that technical problems could have skewed the vote, was valid.

Student body elections, which were held on Feb. 9, did not run smoothly. Some students reported that they were unable to vote online in the correct congressional districts.

The elections board dismissed these concerns and determined that an election do-over wasn’t needed.

But some student body elections are won on small margins, especially in congressional districts.

Taylor Holgate and Marc Seelinger ran and lost to represent Greek housing and North Campus, respectively. They each filed suits to have the results nullified and to have a new election for their respective districts. Holgate lost by 25 votes and Seelinger by 54.

These suits, which were eventually combined, might seem like the bellyaching of sore losers. But they’re not.

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Board of Elections Chairman Pete Gillooly could have handled the complications better.

Gillooly could have gone to greater lengths to notify the student body that there were problems with the election system.

 He also said that he didn’t get a letter from Information Technology Services stating that the election software had been tested. This letter is required by the Student Code.

But he said that he did, in fact, work with ITS to ensure the system was tested and ready.

Getting a letter is a technicality and formality that would have shown Gillooly’s commitment to the Code and fair elections. Those simple steps might have allayed the concerns of the candidates.

In the end, Chief Justice Emma Hodson dismissed the case on behalf of the court in a pretrial hearing because the Code provides guidelines — loose guidelines, but guidelines nonetheless — for the elections board if technical difficulties arise. The board followed those guidelines.

Regardless, we agree with Holgate and Seelinger. Students were disenfranchised because of the technical difficulties. And while they were unsuccessful, seeking clarification from the Court was the right thing to do.