Students vent to Senate about elections process

The votes in the spring 2007 elections have been counted, results have been posted and candidates have celebrated, but the race may not be over yet.

Several candidates filed appeals after hearing about problems students in their class experienced when they went to vote. Students said those problems ranged from incomplete ballots to not being able to vote at all.

Candidates in the race who felt disenfranchised and students who tried to vote made their concerns known at the Feb. 28 student Senate meeting.

Before the meeting started, Senate President Ebony Manchion informed the students that the Senate did not have a hand in the election process, and that any appeals must be filed with the judicial branch.

Manchion went on to explain that only those candidates on the ballot could appeal the election.

During the community forum section of the meeting, students were given three minutes to voice their concerns to the senators.

Eric Troy Wright, a sophomore Afro-American studies student from Tampa, was the first up to the podium. Wright referred to the election as “fiddle-faddle.”

“After yesterday’s display I’d be a fool to sit back and not hold anybody accountable,” Wright said. “For names to be left off the ballot is unacceptable. For the electoral commission members to not be available for questioning is unacceptable.”

Wright also demanded a hand-by-hand, vote-by-vote recount of each ballot; a full investigation of every precinct and its supervisor; and a total recall if any wrongdoing is discovered on the part of any member of the electoral commission or Elections & Appointment committee.

Wright was not the only student upset about the elections’ outcome.

Student after student spoke of numerous events they considered to be questionable practices.

Cristina Betts, 20, a sophomore professional MBA student from Kansas City, Kan., said the election was “fuddled.”

Betts said when she went to vote, her ballot was rejected by the ballot box.

“My ballot did not go into the machine,” said Betts, who voted in the School of Business and Industry. “I had to slip it into the side and she (poll worker) said that sophomore ballots were not going into the machine. I don’t know where my ballot went. I don’t know if it was counted. I just don’t know.”

Betts said one of her main concerns was that she was not aware of how to vote for a write-in candidate for the junior senator election. She said some students received notices in their folders with instructions for how to vote for write-in candidates, but her folder did not have that particular notice.

Sen. Charles Manchion, who was the only write-in candidate in the junior senator election, was unaware of that problem.

“The process is tainted, and I’m looking forward to getting an explanation,” said Manchion, a sophomore political science student. “I was not going to contest the election at first, but now I am beginning to reconsider.”

Problems were also reported at the voting station in the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The Famuan received phone calls Tuesday afternoon that third-year pharmacy students were not allowed to vote for their class because they had too many credits.

Sen. Vandoline Ivey, a junior business administration and marketing student from Lakeland, said many students misunderstood why some students were given the option to vote for more than one classification of students.

Ivey said if the class a student came in with is considered one classification, but the individual student has enough credits to qualify as a different classification, they could choose which election they wanted to take part in as long as they provided official documentation.

The Mr. FAMU race also concerned students.

That race consisted of three candidates: Jeremy Monticure, John Williams and Benjamin Petrose.

Monticure received 1,123 votes, Williams received 624 votes and Petrose received 393 votes.

Election code 600.6 states, “If no candidate in any race achieves a majority (50 plus one) vote, a Run-off Election shall be held.” A run-off election was declared between Monticure and Williams, although Monticure received more than half of the votes in the race.

Electoral Commissioner Darien Moses blamed the error on a computing error.

Moses said the error was not discovered until the next morning. He said the commission called Williams early in the morning to explain what happened but received no answer.

Williams, an agri-business student from Baconton, Ga., said he received no phone call.

“Up until about 12:30 this (Wednesday), I had been campaigning,” he said. “Everything was fine. Then, all of a sudden, I walk past OSA, and I see this sign stating that they had declared Jeremy the winner.”

Williams said he was not contacted by anyone from the commission until 3:30 p.m.

He said he does not feel the entire election should be recalled, but he feels that he should have been allowed to compete in the run-off. He filed an appeal with the judicial branch after the Senate meeting.

According to the FAMU Student Body Constitution, the letter of appeal must be hand-delivered to the Solicitor General no later than 24 hours following the public posting of the results. From that point, the appeal letter is turned over to the Supreme Court, who must decide within 10 days what type of action to take.

The Supreme Court is the only body that has the authority to invalidate the election process.

Despite the allegations of wrongdoing and mismanagement from students, Moses said his staff did nothing wrong. “I have full confidence in my staff and their ability to perform the responsibilities expected of them,” he said.

Moses said he can ensure the student body that the election process is just and honest.

Yewande Addie contributed to this report.