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The Daily Tar Heel

Graduate governance referendum barely makes the ballot

To get the referendum on the ballot, 2,866 fee-paying students had to sign a petition by 5 p.m. Tuesday.

At the deadline, the Board of Elections announced the petition was about 900 signatures short. The Graduate and Professional Student Federation and other interested parties had 24 hours to collect the rest.

On Wednesday night, the Board of Elections announced the petition had missed the required number by two signatures.

“We didn’t believe them,” GPSF President Dylan Russell said.

With no time left and the result already officially certified by the Board of Elections, Russell and the GPSF executive board sprang into action.

“We were so bummed, but we were also determined,” he said.

Verifying petition signatures can be complicated. Small details — an error in the UNC directory, a mistyped PID — can invalidate dozens, even hundreds of signatures.

The GPSF executive team asked for the full list of signatures and stayed up until 3 a.m. reviewing them by hand, Grayson Berger, chairperson of the Board of Elections said.

GPSF had questions about four entries that had a particular error, Berger said, so he spent hours on Thursday hand-checking those four and several dozen others.

Eventually, Berger determined that the computer program had missed three valid signatures. One had a space before the PID, another had a space in the middle of the PID and the third had a special character in a name.

Berger sent the new results to be certified by the Board. They released the new results Thursday afternoon, confirming that the petition had gotten 2,867 of the 2,866 necessary signatures.

With the referendum on the ballot, the student body has a choice to make.

The ballot will let students choose the separation option endorsed by GPSF, which would let graduate students start a separate governing body, or the co-optation option supported by Student Congress, which would rewrite the student constitution. There will also be a way to vote for neither plan.

“Students should prioritize co-optation as their plan,” said David Joyner, speaker of Student Congress. “It’s best for the entire student body, and we are one student body.”

Russell said GPSF will reach out to students — including undergraduates — to convince them to vote for separation when they elect a new student body president on Feb. 9.

“This is about bringing voices to the table, having fair, better representation, making sure that every student at Carolina’s voice is heard,” he said.

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