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Runoff election results in stalemate

Maureen Reynolds | Friday, February 13, 2004

The 8:30 p.m. announcement of the student body president election results threw the election into turmoil rather than bringing the closure candidates and students expected.Judicial Council president Elliot Poindexter informed the tickets of Charlie Ebersol-James Leito and Adam Istvan-Karla Bell that neither received the 50 percent plus one vote needed to win the runoff election. As a result, an emergency meeting of the Student Senate will be called Sunday to determine the winning ticket.Of a total of 3,524 votes, Istvan-Bell received 1,723 votes, or 48.9 percent, and Ebersol-Leito received 1,538 votes, or 43.6 percent. The remaining 7.5 percent accounted for 263 abstentions.Istvan credited his increase in votes – 748 votes in Monday’s election to 1,723 votes in Thursday’s runoff – to increased awareness of his platform and to the endorsements of both the Mark Healy-Mike Healy ticket and the Ryan Craft-Steve Lynch ticket.”Those guys have been an amazing help since Monday,” he said. “I think that just given more time to get my message out helped because I think I was … made to look like an inexperienced ticket, which I’m not. Also, higher voter turnout definitely had a lot to do with it.”Ebersol also commented on the increased voter turnout, which is unusual for a runoff election.”I’m very familiar with the last five elections through my research, and this is the first time there’s been an increase [in voting from the primary to the runoff] in the last five years,” he said. “It’s a very clear indication of what students either wanted or did not want.”Poindexter informed the candidates Thursday of the procedure that will be followed. The Student Union Constitution states that if no ticket wins the required amount of votes, “the Student Senate shall convene a closed meeting and select the winner by a majority vote.” The Constitution further mandates that senators must cast their votes according to the candidate that won in their dorm. In the event the two candidates tied within a particular dorm, that dorm’s senator may vote for either candidate. Finally, in the event there is a tie in the senators’ votes, the student body vice president must cast the deciding vote.This information prompted some frustration from both Ebersol and Istvan. Each said he believed that, because the votes from each dorm have already been tallied, the results should simply be made known to them.”I think it’s a misinterpretation by the Judicial Council,” said Istvan. “The closed meeting policy is for those senators to cast their votes freely … however, if it’s already decided then it doesn’t matter. If either of us won 15 senators straight out … we would automatically win.”Ebersol agreed with Istvan.”I don’t agree with the interpretation,” he said. “While there is a closed door session, I think the real interpretation is that it’s closed in the event of a tie so the senators don’t feel like they’re being swayed by the candidates.”Because of the confusion, each candidate said he will look into the election bylaws if voted into office.”I’m sure whoever wins will probably take a serious look at it to find a better way, but we have to go with what we have for now,” Istvan said.Ebersol again agreed with Istvan, although more forcefully.”I can promise you that if I do get elected, I would definitely tear this page right out of the Constitution,” he said.The election now relies on the candidates winning a plurality of the dorms. Therefore, if Ebersol is declared the winner, he will be a president who reached office despite losing the popular vote. “It’s actually funny because a couple of nights ago, I was talking to [Istvan] and saying that I would have preferred that the elections were decided by the dorms, but at this point, I wish it was just done outright,” Ebersol said. “I could see where Adam would be upset [if I won that way].”Istvan mentioned that this arrangement hurts him, because a lot of his support came from students who live off campus.”I think it is set up unfairly. My support came mostly from juniors and seniors, most of whom live off campus, and they only get one senator,” he said. “Their vote is miniscule now. I won [the senior vote] by more than a 2 to 1 margin. It’s unfortunate that the Constitution is set up in such a way that off campus students count less. However, I would never try to go against the Constitution.”While Ebersol-Leito won the freshman class 551 to 443 votes and the sophomore class 493 to 379 votes, Istvan-Bell won the junior class 490 to 323 votes and the senior class 409 to 170 votes. However, the Student Senate is set up with only one off campus senator and one senator from each dorm.A further issue now complicating the election is that each dorm, regardless of size, will receive only one vote in the Senate meeting Sunday. “I think it’s unfortunate for the kids that live in the big dorms,” said Istvan. “It’s not like the federal system in the United States where you have drastically different views coming from the big and small states. Here, we’re all Notre Dame students … we’re not that much different when it comes to what students want done.”Ebersol did not share the same opinion.”It’s necessary that each dorm has an equal voice,” he said. “I think it’s important that each dorm has equal representation and equal voices.”Ebersol added his own speculation about how the election will turn out.”Based on the last election … I think the two of us can get a pretty good idea of where the votes stand,” he said. “I fell about 70 votes [in the runoff], and [Istvan] gained almost exactly 1,000, but he gained a lot of off campus votes. If you look at the last election, you have a pretty good idea of who wins what dorms.””I would willingly bet that if you looked at the last election you would be able to figure out who is going to win this election,” he said.In Monday’s election, Ebersol-Leito won 22 of 27 dorms. Istvan-Bell won 3, Healy-Healy and Craft-Lynch each won one dorm.