After Talia Smith, 23, a second-year graduate student from Miami appealed the results of this year’s fall elections, Marva Butler, electoral commissioner, has been sanctioned.
Butler is said to be appealing the four sanctions that the student Supreme Court implemented on her in a ruling Tuesday night.
The four sanctions are stated as follows: First, Butler must draft an apology to all of the graduate candidates addressing her error regarding the allowance of fourth-year non-graduate students to vote. Secondly, the electoral commissioner is required to attend the 37th Student Senate Document Review Day held on Oct. 27. Butler must then host an informational booth on the Set every Friday to poll and survey students on improvements to the election procedures. And finally, she will receive a 20 percent deduction from her fall salary.
These sanctions were implemented as part of a ruling where the student Supreme Court ruled against Smith who wanted to remove Butler from her position as electoral commissioner.
Smith ran for graduate attendant in the fall 2007 elections, took the electoral commission to student court on grounds that voting procedures did not follow the constitution, based on who can vote for graduate positions on campus.
Smith said that fourth-year students, who are not in a graduate program, were given the opportunity to vote for graduate positions.
“It was a very unorganized election day,” Smith said. “Ballots were changed at least three times, people’s names were included and excluded off some lists and certain [fourth-year students] were allowed to vote after a certain time.”
Smith appealed the elections so that future constitution violations would not reoccur.
“There are issues with the graduate elections each year,” Smith said. “I want to put a fire in the electoral commission to make a new code that is clear for next year’s electoral commissioner.
Because the graduate elections are smaller than spring elections, Smith said there is not enough emphasis and preparation put into them.
Smith also said that candidates pay too much money for campaigns for the rules not to be adhered to.
Chasity Logan, 22, a graduate student from Memphis, agrees with Smith.
“I really feel that the electoral process is flawed,” Logan said. “Every year, a problem [occurs]. It’s an ongoing process that is never fixed.”
“The people who are privileged to know what is going on in the electoral process or know someone that is a part of the electoral process, have an unfair advantage over those that don’t,” Logan said. “I feel as though [Talia’s] appeal is valid [because] I witnessed everything that happened and I feel that it is unfair that the rules were misquoted and changed.”
Dominique Bercy, 22, the attorney general representing Marva Butler, the electoral commissioner, disagrees with Smith and Logan.
“The electoral commissioner did not do anything wrong, constitutionally,” Bercy said. “The documents are confusing and [Butler] made a decision based on information that was brought to her attention.”
Bercy said that people were confusing parts of the documents that says students in graduate programs are qualified to run, with another part of the documents that allows fourth-year students or higher, who are officially enrolled in a graduate course of study to vote. When this section of the document was brought to her attention, Butler immediately fixed the problem.
She added that part of the documents that allows fourth-year students or higher who are officially enrolled in a graduate course of study to vote was posted at each voting precinct. Students overlooked this statement.
“I defend the documents,” Bercy said. “It is not [Butler’s] fault for making the decision that she made. The documents need to be revised and they are in the process of doing that.”
Although Bercy admitted that fourth-year SBI students taking graduate courses were allowed to vote after a certain time, she said that only seven or eight students were turned away prior to the change.
In response to Smith’s complaint about candidates not being notified of changes as far as who could vote, Bercy said that it is not the electoral commissioner’s responsibility to notify the candidates. Bercy said that Butler is only required to tell precinct supervisors about changes. The candidates have copies of the documents.
A date has not been set to decide whether or not Butler’s appeal will be granted.
Amir Shabazz, the solicitor general in the judicial branch, refused to comment on Smith’s trial and the appeal.
Butler was unavailable for comment.