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Candidates penalized in elections

Anneliese Woolford | Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Saint Mary’s student body candidates Sarah Brown and Michelle Fitzgerald will have ten votes deducted from their vote total in today’s primary election as the result of a policy violation.

The College’s Elections Committee met Friday to discuss two separate complaint forms filed against Brown and Fitzgerald in regard to the Election Poster Policy.

The first complaint was filed Thursday in response to improper placement of flyers on bathroom mirrors. Consequently, the Elections Committee issued a warning to the ticket.

The second complaint filed against Brown and Fitzgerald concerned two 8 1/2” x 11” flyers posed outside of Holy Cross Hall residents’ rooms. When questioned by elections commissioner Nicole Haeberle, one resident said Fitzgerald was her friend and gave her the flyer.

“That was explicit in the complaint form,” Haeberle said.

Speaking on behalf of her ticket, Brown said that she and her running mate were unaware of how the resident received the handout.

“Our violation cited that Michelle and I were responsible for all materials associated with our campaign complying with all Election Bylaws. Until this point, we were not aware that we would be responsible for the actions of the entire student body,” Brown said. “We were unprepared to patrol campus and ensure that actions happening unbeknownst to us complied with rules of which not all students are aware.”

Following deliberation, the Committee decided that a violation occurred under the Policy’s General Rule no. 6: “Any additional handouts must be smaller than the 8 1/2” x 11” flyer.”

The sanction issued by the Elections Committee specified that, for each violation documented in a written complaint, the candidates’ primary election vote total would be penalized five votes.

“The Elections Committee felt that a penalty of five votes was a significant deterrent from future violation of the policy,” Haeberle said.

The candidates had until 8 a.m. Saturday to correct any possible additional problems. The Elections Committee now reserves the right to assess the same penalty per residence hall room should any member observe further violations with or without an accompanying written complaint.

In its defense, the Brown-Fitzgerald ticket chose to appeal the decision made by the Elections Committee, citing a misunderstanding.

Haeberle said that all candidates were notified of the policy in specific detail before campaigning began.

“In their election information meetings … we made it a point to adequately cover the poster policy in detail,” she said.

The Elections Appeals Board upheld the decision of the Elections Committee and penalized the ticket ten votes.

“While Michelle and I still maintain that we were not informed of the rule binding us to the actions of the entire student body, we feel that the violation, hearing and appeals process worked very smoothly,” Brown said. “While we are regretful that the votes of ten of our supporters will be invalidated, we do not feel this will alter the outcome of the election.”