Following a two-week appeal process and controversy surrounding JMU’s Student Government Association major elections on Feb. 28, SGA is holding a revote for those ineligible to vote in the initial election.
Jewel Hurt, a junior political science and public policy administration double major, was officially announced as the SGA president after receiving 899 votes, or 55.41 percent. Seemran Patel, a senior engineering major and Hurt’s opponent, appealed the election to SGA following the results. Patel received 663 votes, or 40.82 percent.
Nicholas Williamson is a junior political science major and the 2018 election commissioner. He stated that re-election is only being held for students not able to vote in the first election, including freshmen and transfer students.
“There were voting issues on the original major election on voting day, technical issues, which some people were ineligible to vote,” Williamson said. “So we will be adding on the votes that we get this Friday onto the votes we got on the initial polling day as well.”
Waiting to hear a response from SGA, Patel reached out to Mark Warner, senior vice president of student affairs. According to Warner, he later directed Patel to Josh Bacon, SGA’s adviser. Hurt believes the election process has been unfair, including the decision to appeal.
“Honestly, I feel like several things have been done that don’t follow the elections policy,” Hurt said. “It’s the biggest mess I’ve ever seen.”
According to Patel, members of SGA later denied her appeal, keeping Hurt the official president. Patel then reported a series of election violations to the director of the Office of Student Accountability and Restorative Practices on March 1. Patel said the office is investigating the election.
“My campaign was fair,” Hurt said. “[Patel] tried to say things that literally weren’t true, but all of mine against her were true — we had the evidence.”
Hurt also reported violations against Patel’s campaign. This report was sent to the elections commission on Feb. 21 and reported a “failure to have any and every posted campaign materials approved by the University and elections commission,” according to Hurt’s report. Hurt’s violation report also included copies of complaints Hurt claimed to have received.
“There’s no evidence of anything,” Patel said. “Friday’s going to be rough … They are not really allowing the student body’s voice to be heard.”
The list of violations Patel submitted against the JMU SGA Election Policy included the use of handwritten ballots at polling stations and ad-hoc voting, which is “the use of a personal computer as a polling site,” according to the SGA policy. SGA guidelines state, “electronic polling shall take place for all Major Elections positions over a period of two days.” Patel also submitted multiple student eye-witnesses in the report who she says saw the violations occur. OSARP is currently investigating the election and its results.
“[OSARP] is also keeping an eye on this election because students are doing whatever they want,” Patel said. “This is a university-level election. No students should be having this much power over a candidate.”
The final decision for a re-election was made by SGA after it was requested by Bacon and the elections commission, according to Hurt, Williamson and Patel. However, Bacon has influence over the election and the process as SGA’s adviser.
Patel said she’s attempting to remain positive through the second election despite her feelings about the commission.
“I’m trying my hardest to be positive and stick to the good side of myself,” Patel said. “I don’t think the election commission team is in favor of that because I am the one who forced this rerun and they are not happy with what I did.”
Hurt, the announced president, believes the process has been tedious. She said her original campaign was fair.
“I’m not putting in as much effort as I did before, partly because I’m so exhausted, and I feel like this should have already been done,” Hurt said. “It’s putting the whole SGA behind … this whole process has just really upset me how it’s been handled.”
Following the re-election Friday, the official president and all other major positions will be announced, barring any unforeseen violations. Williamson believes the steps taken prior to the re-election have been fair.
“The process has been followed by all parties,” Williamson said. “We hope that we still have a good, fair election throughout the entire process.”
Contact Madisson Haynes at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.