Chief Justice Magalie Yacinthe granted former Student Government Association president and vice-presidential candidates Gallop Franklin and Dominick Ardis a continuance Wednesday in their trial against the Electoral Commission.
In the beginning of the trial, Attorney General Dominique Bercy moved that the defense dismiss the trial because of unsubstantial evidence for the first appeal, which stated that there were problems with the ballot machine at the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences precinct.
The appeal also said that individuals who were not a part of the commission fixed the machine. Bercy, 22, a senior English student from Port St. Lucie, said the individuals who fixed the machine were employees of Ion Sancho, Leon County supervisor of elections.
“Since the individuals can’t be identified, there is nothing we can do,” Bercy said. “It’s all just hearsay.”
Mario Henderson, student counsel for Franklin and Ardis, requested to withdraw the appeal because Franklin and Ardis had no direct evidence to verify the first appeal.
After the justices retired to their chambers for a 10-minute recess, Yacinthe, 21, a senior professional MBA student from Miami, decided to dismiss the appeal based on this lack of evidence.
The second appeal was a request for a continuance of the trial. Henderson, 20, a senior political science student from Daytona Beach, said the documents Franklin and Ardis requested from the Electoral Commission were not supplied to them.
“(The) Electoral Commission seems to pick and choose what parts of the statutes they want to adhere to,” Henderson said. “It’s like going to war with no weapons.”
Henderson said Franklin and Ardis needed the voter rolls for each precinct and the ballots in order to prove their case.
“We’re asking the court to compel the Electoral Commission to release the information we requested,” Henderson said.
Bercy was concerned that student identification numbers on the voter rolls would be seen by someone other than Franklin and Ardis.
“According to the FANG (FAMU student handbook), the student ID number is considered personal information,” Bercy said.
Henderson told the court Franklin and Ardis did not want to see the ID numbers.
“We would be willing to sign a confidentiality agreement,” Henderson said.
Bercy said Electoral Commissions would need time to block out the ID numbers from view.
“To black out all the information would take at least 30 days,” she said.
Henderson also submitted a memo to the commission requesting the election ballots.
Article 119.071a of the 2007 Florida Statutes state that since ballots are public record they can be inspected and copied by any person desiring to do so under supervision of the state’s custodian of public records.
“The Electoral Commission is subject to penalty under the law if they say we can’t get the information from FAMU,” Henderson said.
Henderson and Kyle Washington, co-counsel for Franklin and Ardis, presented various memos to the commission and the Supreme Court requesting the election ballots.
“We have submitted many requests and still haven’t gotten a response,” said Washington, 20, a senior public relations student from Tallahassee.
Yacinthe wanted to be sure that upon receipt of the requested documents, Franklin and Ardis would be ready for the next trial.
“If ballots are the only thing you get, will you be ready?” Yacinthe asked.
Henderson said even without the information Franklin and Ardis would still try to prove their case.
“The burden of proof is on us,” he said.
After a 45-minute recess, Yacinthe also ordered that the commission give Franklin and Ardis the voter rolls for each precinct and submit the ballots for review by March 21 at 3 p.m.
Ardis was shocked at the outcome of the trial.
“I was definitely surprised, as I’m sure everybody else was, that we were granted a continuance and I’m thankful to God for that,” he said.
Bercy said the trial did not go the way the defense intended, but they will still do their best to continue to serve the student body.
Franklin is still dissatisfied with the Electoral Commission.
“I am disappointed in the Electoral Commission,” Franklin said. “I never thought they would tamper with ballots. It’s not just about Dominick and me. We hope to reform the way the election process takes place. It is our main purpose to restore integrity and morals back into the Electoral Commission.”
Washington said he also thinks the ballots were tampered with.
“We still haven’t received the information we requested,” he said. “We waited 19 days and now we have to wait four more days, which leaves room for more error. The word ‘tamper’ comes to mind.”
Electoral Commissioner Marva Butler had no comment.
The date of the next trial will be determined March 21.