Ex-candidates get second day in court

The Franklin and Ardis vs. Electoral Commission trial continued April 2 with the plaintiffs providing seven witnesses. Evidence was given about alleged foul play concerning ballots and irregular voting procedures.

The trial is a continuation from the first trial March 19 where Chief Justice Magalie Yacinthe granted a continuation because Franklin and Ardis did not receive the voter rolls and ballots they requested. After the continuance was granted, the plaintiffs received documents from the College of Law and the main campus.

The Office of the Attorney General motioned to solely acknowledge evidence from the College of Law.

“The voter roll issue was only at the law school and those precinct supervisors weren’t properly trained,” said Whitney Murray, deputy attorney general.

Yacinthe decided not to grant the motion because all the information that needed to be presented was pertinent.

During his opening statement, Mario Henderson, counsel for Franklin and Ardis, told the court that he felt the election process “needed to be repaired.”

Why won’t we go quietly into the night?” Henderson said. “Because of a broken system; we need to restore integrity into the electoral system. We are asking the court to mend a broken system. Accountability and integrity are the reasons why were here this evening.”

Kyle Walton, one of Henderson’s witnesses, a second-year law student, claimed the polls at the College of Law in Orlando didn’t open on time.

“From what I heard, the polls were supposed to open at eight but, when I got to campus at eight, they weren’t open,” Walton said.

Walton said the Electoral Commission didn’t send any information about the elections.

“A lot of stuff on our campus is word-of-mouth,” Walton said. “The only posted information was the ‘no campaigning within 50 feet’ sign. It’s not surprising the main campus didn’t send any information about elections.”

The next witness was Franklin, a 20-year-old pharmacy student from Tallahassee and former SGA president candidate. Franklin was allowed to look at the voter rolls and said he found some inconsistencies in the voter rolls.

“It looked like someone probably went back after the election to try to make the numbers match,” Franklin said. “Ninety-three percent of the voter rolls had signatures. The one that didn’t was the College of Law.”

Franklin also said some of the precinct volunteers were not approved by the Senate.

“Over 60 names were on the list that the Electoral Commission brought to the Senate to be approved,” Franklin said. “There were names of people who were candidates and on campaign teams. We only affirmed 17 because we knew they were non-partisan and had the GPA.”

Franklin said Electoral Commissioner Marva Butler threatened to boycott the elections if people on the volunteer list didn’t get confirmed.

“Marva told us the Electoral Commission was going to go on strike if they didn’t get approved,” he said.

Ar’dis, a third-year health care management and business administration student from Tallahassee, noticed inconsistencies in the voter rolls as well.

“I didn’t vote during the run-off,” Ar’dis said. “When I saw the voter roll for Allied Health Sciences, I saw my signature had a slash through it.”

While Franklin and Ar’dis were reviewing the voter rolls, Butler told them the slash meant they voted for the regular election and the run-off.

“This shows my signature was tampered with,” he said. “It made me question the entire process. I filed a police report with FAMU PD. Someone messed with my signature, that’s fraud,” Ar’dis said.

Dr. James Moran, coordinator of advancement and alumni affairs, reviewed the voter rolls for the spring election. He questioned the Electoral Commission’s election process.

“When I asked ‘What was the procedure?’ they told me people could sign, highlight, or initial,” Moran said. “It brought in mind the integrity of the process. What are the policies that are in place?”

Elise Taylor, who was a spring elections precinct supervisor, was requested by the Office of the Attorney General to speak on behalf of the Electoral Commission.

Taylor said the Electoral Commissioner decides what rules to adopt for their school year’s election.

“Each commissioner is allowed to make their own policies and procedures,” Taylor said. “They decide what they need to function.”

Taylor also said the precinct supervisor decides how to run their precinct.

“Chapter 600 in the student body statutes is what we’re forced to abide by,” Taylor explained. “It says it should be some kind of indication. Not necessarily a signature. Each precinct supervisor is allowed to make a decision on how they want to indicate.”

During closing arguments, Henderson told the court that the lack of policies and procedures directly affected the election process.

“The lack of internal policies and procedures opened the door for chaos,” Henderson said.

Attorney General Dominique Bercy felt that if Franklin and Ar’dis would’ve won, there wouldn’t have been a trial.

“What are we here for?,” Bercy said. “Because someone can’t accept losing? They waited until they lost and then decided to come up and put on a show. If Mr. Franklin and Mr. Ar’dis would have won, we wouldn’t be here.”