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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Court Rules Fall Election Valid

    Nov. 6 — In a close 3-2 vote, the Supreme Court of the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) has ruled that the election held between Oct. 22 and Oct. 26 is indeed valid.

    The court’s decision came after a hearing that was held on Nov. 5. Arguments from Paul Sylvester, the student who requested the investigation of the election, and Matthew Anderson, USG senator, were heard by the court.

    Likewise, Advocate General of the USG Department of Justice, Alexsandra Borodkin, presented the findings of her investigation and gave the Court her recommendation.

    Suspicions concerning the election were first brought to the public’s attention when it was reported that the Supreme Court had placed a hold on the results of the election. At the same time, the court had ordered the Department of Justice to conduct an investigation of the election.

    Still, it was unclear at that time who or what had prompted the USG to carry out such measures. However, on Nov. 1, Robert Romano, former USG senator, notified The Statesman that it was, in fact, a student who had filed the petition for a temporary injunction.

    In an authentic copy of the petition, provided by Romano, the plaintiff, Paul Sylvester, complained that his right to vote had been trampled on.

    In his petition, he said that when he logged onto SOLAR, on Oct. 26, at approximately 12:15 p.m., ‘the ballot had already been removed, though the election was scheduled until 3 o’ clock in the afternoon.’

    He said that, as a result, he did not enjoy the free exercise of his rights. He requested that the Supreme Court stay the results of the election and conduct an investigation into the matter.

    In his formal brief to the Supreme Court, he said, ‘if the election is allowed to stand then the Undergraduate Student Government has failed to safeguard the liberty of the undergraduate community.’

    ‘The right to vote is the greatest exercise of one’s civic liberty, and I was denied that right without due process,’ he said.

    The investigation was subsequently carried out by Borodkin and her findings were presented at the hearing on Nov. 5.

    In her report, she included the conditional Elections Board Timeline for the fall 2007 election. The timetable explicitly outlined that the polls open at noon on Oct. 22 and close at 3:00pm on Oct. 26. As was previously mentioned, this was not the case.

    E-mail messages between Administrative Director Eunice Ro, Max Sequeira and Latit Bhatia, both from the Department of Information Technology (DoIT), indicated that miscommunication was the cause of the polls ending at noon instead of 3:00 p.m. on Oct. 26.

    Ro contacted Bhatia by e-mail and informed her that students were saying that the ballot was not available. He asked if a technical problem was the cause.’ ‘As per my conversation with Max [Sequeira], [the] ballot was supposed to close at 12:00 [p.m.],’ Bhatia said.

    Sequeira then notified Bhatia that he emailed Bhatia the correction and said ‘I apologize if I left you under the wrong impression about the dates’hellip;We’ll see what happens.’

    Based on her findings, Borodkin concluded that this miscommunication was the cause of the early closing of the polls.

    She went on to say that this confusion, however, still violated several laws.

    The Election Board Bylaws were violated, due to an incorrect timeline being carried out for the election; the USG Constitution was violated due to students being denied the opportunity to vote; the Equal Protection clause was violated due to students being disenfranchised because of an inconvenient timeline; and students’ rights were violated because students were denied their right to vote without due process of the law.

    Borodkin recommended that the Oct. 22-26 election be nullified and a new election set forth for the week of Nov. 19-23.

    Despite the possible denial of rights, Anderson highlighted why such a move would be unconstitutional.

    He said that the USG Constitution clearly states that no elections can be held past Oct. 31. As a result, if the election were thrown out, the President would have to appoint persons to the vacant positions, according to Anderson.

    He said that while he did acknowledge that the election was unfair, under the current Constitution, there was no way that a new election could be put forward.

    Such was the opinion of the Supreme Court as well.

    In the opinion of the court, presented by Justice Will Brown, the decision stated that even though the courts do have the authority to invalidate elections, the court did not see any practical reason to do so.

    To rebut Sylvester’s argument, the opinion mentioned that Article II, Section 3A of the Constitution prohibits the denial of the right to vote ‘on the basis of race, religion, sex, color, national origin, age, marital status, disability, or sexual orientation.’

    The opinion said, ‘last minute voters are not included in the list of people who cannot be excluded from the vote.’ Also, no violation occurred since the timing error was unintentional.

    ‘[Sylvester] was simply the victim of an unfortunate miscommunication,’ it said.

    Chief Justice Andrew Bruskin delivered the opinion concurring with the court’s judgment. He stated, ‘This was not an easy decision for the court to make.’ However, it was a practical decision.

    He reiterated the points made by Brown in the court’s opinion but added, ‘the court simply does not have the authority to present a remedy to the affected voters, even though they should be duly afforded one.’

    It is unlikely that anyone will be punished for the error.

    According to the opinion of the court, however, it has ‘no authority to bring action against the election board itself, over the violation of the Election Board By-Laws.’

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