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Laura Saavedra Forero added to SBP ballot after technical issues

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Student Body President candidate Laura Saavedra Forero poses for a portrait at the Old Well on Jan. 8, 2024.

After originally informing Laura Saavedra Forero that she did not receive enough signatures to qualify as an official candidate for student body president, the UNC Board of Elections reversed its decision late Monday evening to include her on the ballot.

The BOE requires candidates for SBP to receive 1,000 verified signatures to qualify for the official ballot. Initially, Saavedra Forero said the UNC BOE told her she would not be certified as an official candidate on the ballot because she was four signatures short. Saavedra Forero decided to continue her campaign as a write-in candidate. 

According to the BOE, the technology used to check PIDs and count signatures malfunctioned because of commas in the signatures that Saavedra Forero collected. 

"After numerous days of recalculations and employing various methods, the Board of Elections has conclusively determined that Laura Saavedra Forero did meet the required number of signatures to appear on the ballot," the UNC BOE said in a statement on Tuesday morning. "It is important to acknowledge that our systems, while advanced, may not be infallible, and we are committed to rectifying any errors brought to our attention."

Saavedra Forero said that, while collecting signatures on paper from students, she uploaded the signatures into an Excel spreadsheet each day and sent them to the BOE.

“We never received updates on those counts until I received a message, I believe it was Feb. 1, saying I had not met the quota,” she said.

Monday's update comes after junior Matthew Tweden filed a lawsuit against the UNC BOE and its acting Chair Sophie van Duin on Thursday. Tweden collected 26 signatures at the time of the initial deadline for candidacy on the 2024-25 Undergraduate Student Senate. 

The suit claimed the UNC BOE had unclear petitioning protocol and did not provide him with signature information in a timely manner. The lawsuit initially included SBP candidate Jaleah Taylor, but she withdrew her name on Saturday after she was certified as the sole SBP candidate. 

Tweden filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on Monday before the decision was made to allow Saavedra Forero on the ballot.

The BOE provides a 24-hour grace period to allow candidates to “correct” their petitions if they do not meet the signature requirements. This accounts for PID errors and other mistakes students may make when signing a petition. Van Duin said the grace period is intended to be used as a time for candidates to collect new signatures and not necessarily correct their flawed signatures. 

After Tweden submitted his signatures — of which only 25 are required for senate petitions — the BOE told him that he’d fallen short of the threshold. 

In his complaint to the Student Supreme Court, Tweden argued the BOE failed to provide him with his petition materials in a timely manner, hindering his ability to correct the signatures. He also said he felt that the definition of correcting signatures was misinterpreted by the BOE. 

“I would contend ‘correct a signature’ means you received a signature, there's something errant with the signature, and you are going out to get it corrected,” Tweden said

Van Duin said that the BOE does what it can to provide information but is limited because Heel Life doesn’t allow individuals who are not on the BOE to see their forms. 

After reviewing his petition materials and independently verifying the signatures he collected, Tweden contacted the BOE with his findings and they confirmed his place on the ballot, he said in an email statement on Monday.

Early Tuesday, Saavedra Forero announced on Instagram that she had made it on the ballot for SBP. She will run against Taylor in the 2024-25 election.

"After fighting the system for the past 3 days and meeting with the Board of Elections, we received notice that mistakes were made on their end," she said in the post. "We had more than enough signatures and are officially on the ballot."

@maddieahmadi

@dailytarheeluniversity@dailytarheel.com

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