UPDATE (Feb. 26, 2:40 p.m.): Since the original article was published on Feb. 22, an appeal has been made on the vice presidential election due to a system error occurring on election day, preventing freshmen from voting. A re-election on the vice presidential candidates will be held Friday. There will not be a re-election for the presidential candidates, making Jewel Hurt the official student body president.
The JMU Student Government Association announced the winners of each position for the 2018-19 election term Wednesday. Following a 12-hour election period and diligent counting, SGA re-elected Jewel Hurt as student body president with Ben Rosenberger as vice president, Cayhan Movaghari as executive treasurer and Desiree Edemba as the student representative to the board of visitors.
However, Seemran Patel, a senior engineering major and Hurt’s opponent in the presidential candidacy, is appealing the election. Patel appealed the votes Thursday afternoon.
“There’s a big, big chance that the votes are not what the votes came out to be,” Patel said. “The election was very poorly planned. People could not vote — everyone that was coming up to me could not vote. The polling stations were in SSC and ISAT, but the problem was that the online election was really messed up until 11 a.m. When I woke up at 7:00 a.m. I could not find the election link.”
Nicholas Williamson, a junior political science major and the 2018 elections commissioner, worked directly with the election. He explained that there are specific guidelines followed for both voting and the appeal process.
SGA has specific campaign regulations, that when violated, are cause for appeal. For example, candidates aren’t allowed to campaign in Carrier or Rose Libraries. While it’s unclear why Patel is appealing the votes, Williamson believes it’s because of a campaign violation.
If an appeal is made, “[The commission] makes a vote on the appeals and, based on the appeals, sees if there was a violation,” Williamson said. “If it is a violation, we can decide if it is either A, beyond reasonable doubt that it could have affected the outcome of the election, [then] we can do a re-election … If we decide it would not have affected the outcome of the election, then the results could still stand.”
After an appeal is submitted, it’s then confirmed by the election commission. Next, the votes can be overturned or a re-election can be held.
“Going forward I will definitely make sure the election policy is followed,” Patel said. “I will continue to fight for what’s right and never give up.”
Hurt, a junior political science and public policy administration double major, has already announced her re-election on social media. She believes she ran a fair race.
“I honestly think that we ran a super clean campaign,” Hurt said. “All of my staff knew the right protocol and we really tried to just do a fair campaign. So if [Patel] did appeal, I don’t know on what grounds it would be. There’s nothing I can think of that she could possibly say that’s grounds for an appeal and then a re-election. I think she’ll try to find something, and she might, but at the end of the day, we ran a good campaign and we’re taking it as a win. We’ll see what happens.”
Patel hopes to improve the election process in the future. She believes she ran a fair race, and hopes her appeal will show that.
“I go to bed knowing I did the right thing,” Patel said. “I’m really happy I’m staying true to myself and to JMU and to SGA and only campaigning with the rules and being completely fair.”
Despite the potential appeal, Hurt looks forward to this upcoming year. She hopes to continue focusing on student outreach.
“I’m really excited,” Hurt said. “We’re going to take things day by day. Although I listed a lot of things in my platform I want to accomplish, there are things and measures for change that pop up through the year and I’m just really excited to be an advocate for students — to listen to their interests and take it to the top and work with the administrators to see that their voice is heard.”
The Breeze will update this story as more information is received.
CORRECTION (Feb. 23, 3:15 p.m.): A previous version of this article stated Seemran Patel is a junior engineering major. She's actually a senior. The article has been updated with the correct information.
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