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Student Supreme Court overrules election challenges

CORRECTION 2:30 P.M. Feb. 16: Due to reporting errors, this story originally reported that Student Supreme Court Chief Justice Emma Hodson said that the Student Code provides "adequate guidelines" for technical problems and that Board of Elections Chairman Pete Gillooly followed them. She said neither. Hodson did say the code provides guidelines for technical voting problems, but she gave no opinion on the adequacy of the provision. This story also incorrectly reported that Hodson said students might not have been aware of paper ballots. She said students were not made aware of certain provisions of the Student Code, not paper ballots.

CLARIFICATION: This story originally said that the Student Supreme Court decided in the case filed against the Board of Elections. Chief Justice Emma Hodson decided the matter in a pretrial hearing that did not include other court members. Hodson acts on behalf of the court.

Despite claims that parts of last week’s election should be invalidated, today’s election should go as planned.

That’s what the Student Supreme Court decided Monday night when it dismissed a case filed against the Board of Elections that questioned the legitimacy of last Tuesday’s election.

Chief Justice Emma Hodson ruled to accept Board of Elections Chairman Pete Gillooly’s request to dismiss the case brought against him by two losing candidates in last week’s Student Congress race.

The decision ended an injunction that prevented Gillooly from certifying results for those two districts and put an end to the argument that voting difficulties could have interfered with the legitimacy of the election.

The two candidates said that the Board of Elections should be held accountable for technical problems on the part of Information Technology Services that they said prevented some students from voting in last Tuesday’s election.

They also claimed that the voting system — which requires students to pick which Student Congress district they live in — allows for dishonesty.

They also argued that election procedures calling for students to cast paper ballots in the case of technical difficulty effectively disenfranchised voters because the option was not well-publicized.

“Most people don’t care nearly as much about the election as the candidates do,” said Taylor Ann Holgate, one of the plaintiffs, who lost her election for Student Congress District 5 by 25 votes.

“We try as hard as we can to get people to vote, but when the barrier to vote is so much higher and they have to track someone down, they’re disenfranchised.”

Marc Seelinger was the other plaintiff in the suit. He lost his District 1 race by 54 votes.

But Hodson said the Student Code provides adequate guidelines for technical problems that Gillooly followed and threw out the plaintiff’s arguments that computer difficulties had a significant impact on the election.

Hodson also said that while students might not be aware of the paper ballot option, the large number of cases brought before the court this year — at least 11 since she became chief justice last fall — made her unwilling to rule in the losing candidates’ favor.

“In the past I have been somewhat lenient recognizing that students don’t have a great deal of familiarity with the Code,” she said. “But … unfortunately I feel like it’s also unjust for the court, and for me, to become your advocate.”

The court is responsible for ruling about all controversies between branches of student government and all issues that arise under competing interpretations of the Student Code, the document that governs all student government action.

Hodson did admonish Gillooly to remember in the future that voting problems could have a different impact on different elections, and that calling for a re-vote might not have been a bad decision.

“You need to think about each race as a separate election and that in some races, 300 people not being able to vote could have substantial impact,” she said.

Holgate said she was not happy with Hodson’s decision.

“I’m disappointed for all the students who couldn’t vote,” she said. “It sucks that next year we’ll have the same crappy voting system.”

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