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Committee rejects fraud allegations

Kaitlynn Riely | Monday, February 26, 2007

The Executive Committee of the Judicial Council decided last week that two different instances of alleged election violations were not actual violations, Judicial Council vice president of elections Anthony Dayrit said Sunday.

Student body vice president Bill Andrichik filed a complaint last week that said illegal posters campaigning for the abstain ticket were found in the Student Government office on the second floor of LaFortune and also on the doors of the Hesburgh Library. Andrichik said he is not opposed to students voting in favor of abstention, but said he brought the issue to the attention of the Judicial Council because the person who was responsible was in the student government.

“Had this been someone unconnected with the Student Union, I would have considered not even making a formal complaint,” he said. “But since I knew the individual holds an enumerated position, I felt it was necessary to bring it to Judicial Council’s attention.”

The Executive Committee voted unanimously that this was not an election violation because it did not have a deciding impact on the outcome of the student body election results, Dayrit said.

A separate allegation said one ticket running for Sophomore Class Council stole ideas for policies published on campaigning materials from a ticket that decided to no longer run. The Executive Committee voted 4-2 that this was also not an election violation, Dayrit said.

Morrissey Hall Senator Greg Dworjan said Sunday that he placed the abstain posters around campus to encourage people to vote abstain to show they were not satisfied with either the Danny Smith-Ashley Weiss or the Liz Brown-Maris Braun tickets.

“After talking with a lot of people in my dorm, especially the seniors … a lot of them were saying the choices between the two candidates don’t seem to be varying enough, or something inspiring or something you can directly connect with that would make you want to vote for that person,” he said.

Dworjan said he put at least two posters up in each residence hall on the Tuesday after the primary election. The posters informed students that seniors could vote and urged all students to vote to abstain. They read:

“If you believe no candidate is a worthy choice for Student Body President, vote to abstain on Thursday, February 15, helping to ensure that no candidate wins.”

The campaign was meant to show that the student body wanted better choices, Dworjan said.

“I wanted to show that people do care, but they just don’t necessarily agree with the platforms put forth,” he said.

In the primary election, 137 people voted to abstain, out of a total of 3,492 votes. In the run-off election, 201 people voted to abstain out of 3,352 people. Neither the Brown-Braun nor Smith-Weiss tickets received the necessary 50 percent plus one votes needed to win the run-off election, so the issue proceed to the Student Senate, where Brown-Braun won by a vote of 15-13.

The abstain vote helped to push the issue to the Senate, Dworjan said.

“Obviously, six percent is enough that it can throw off an election,” he said. “It also shows a flaw in the system, too.”

But Andrichik said he doubted the posters persuaded anyone to change their vote to abstain.

Dworjan’s campaign will be the subject of a Student Union Ethics Board meeting Tuesday. Dworjan said he was contacted by Judicial Council president Liz Kozlow to attend the hearing.

Andrichik said the Board will review the matter and decide whether to recommend the Senate enforce sanctions on the senator.

All election posters must be approved by the Judicial Council and by the Student Activities Office, and Dworjan did not get approval for his posters, Dayrit said. He also left posters near the copy machine in the Student Government office, which is a violation of the Student Union Constitution, since campaigning cannot take place in that office.

Dworjan said he used the copy machine to make approximately 30 copies of the posters.

But he said he was not aware of the section in the Constitution which forbids campaigning to take place in the office.

Dworjan said he does not regret putting up the posters. The overall goal of his “Campaign to Abstain” succeeded, he said.

“That was basically the message – if you don’t like the choices, just say so,” he said.

The abstain vote option was a subject of debate at the Student Senate meeting last week.

Lyons Hall Senator Mariana Montes introduced an amendment that called for changing the abstain vote to a symbolic choice but not including it in the total tally of votes.

Montes said Sunday she does see the value in having the option to abstain since by choosing to abstain, the student is making an effort to be part of the election process, “but on the other side, part of it might be apathetic, saying let others decide for me.”

Smith, who is also Alumni Hall’s senator, said future candidates need to re-energize the voters and get them informed by meeting as many people as possible. People who abstain may do so because they don’t know enough about the candidates, he said.

For future elections, Dworjan said he would like to see the election system changed and a run-off election won by a plurality, rather than a 50 percent plus one majority. But the abstain vote should still be available, he said.

“I think it should remain an option,” Dworjan said. “But I think also it shouldn’t count to the point that it does.”