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Njomo-Bisner elected ND student body president and vice president, signature referendum fails in 2021 election

| Friday, February 26, 2021

The 2021 Notre Dame student body election concluded Thursday night as juniors Allan Njomo and Matthew Bisner were declared the winners, receiving 51.18% of votes. The proposed referendum, which attempted to raise the number of signatures required to bring petitions to the student senate, failed.

A total 4,030 valid votes were cast in Wednesday’s election, equivalent to 45.63% of the student body. Junior Thomas Davis, judicial council president, said during the livestream Thursday night this was the highest voter turnout in three years. 

“The judicial council commends the candidates and the election committee for their outreach efforts, which facilitated this increase in turnout, despite a small number of tickets this year and University restrictions on in-person student activities due to community health concerns,” Davis said. 

Juniors Mabry Webb and Jacob Calpey ticket received 757 or 20.60% of votes, while juniors Max Siegel and Zachary Holland received 1,037 votes or 28.22% of votes. 

The winning Njomo-Bisner ticket received 1,881 votes. This year, 355 voters abstained. 

Elaine Park | The Observer

“I’m so honored,” Njomo said. “I never saw myself in this position. I’m really grateful the student body trusts Matty and I in this role.” 

Traditionally, candidates gather in the LaFortune Student Center to hear the results, but the announcement was held virtually this year due to COVID-19 concerns. Njomo said he was in a quad “with [his] fellow Stanford brothers” when he received the news. All of the candidates were told the results of the election prior to the livestream. 

The future president said he’s looking forward to the beginning of his and Bisner’s term and coordinating with the community to bridge the relationship between the student body, student government and the administration. 

“I’m certainly looking forward to getting into office and ensuring the students get the support they deserve,” he said. 

Njomo thanked all of the other candidates by name for a great race and commended them all on their platforms.

“Wow, we had a great race, and that’s great to celebrate,” he said. 

Bisner was also impressed by the cordiality of their fellow candidates. He was in his dorm room in Baumer Hall when he heard the news.

“I’m at a loss for words,” he said. 

Bisner said he and Njomo are excited to work on specific legislative actions at the start of their term, including taking steps towards green programming and working to promote and support the Native American Student Association of Notre Dame. 

In addition to the president and vice president tickets, Wednesday’s ballot also included a referendum on raising the number of signatures needed to qualify a petition to be brought to the Senate floor. The referendum asked voters a yes or no question: “Raise the standard of valid signatures required of petitioners to the Student Senate from 200 to a number between 5-8% of the undergraduate student body (442-707) to be determined by the Student Senate?”

Currently, 200 signatures, or less than 3% of the student population, are needed. The referendum proposed raising the number to 5 to 8%. 

The referendum failed in the election by a 23% to 77% margin, with 794 voting “yes” and 2,698 voting “no.”

Webb said she was excited about the results of the election and was happy with the process, noting how all three candidates ran on similar platforms.

“I’m just really excited, I think Allan and Matty are going to do great,” she said. “I’m really proud of them. They ran a really good platform and a clean race.” 

Siegel commended the Njomo-Bisner ticket as well.

“Allan and Matt ran a great campaign,” he said. “They are great guys … I’m looking forward to seeing what they are going to do.” 

Siegel also thanked his campaign team.

“I’m super proud of my team and Zach,” he said. “We couldn’t have gotten this far without them.” 

The election results were originally scheduled to be announced Thursday at 12:15 a.m., but after an allegation of election misconduct was submitted to the judicial council at 11:58 p.m. Wednesday night, the results were delayed until Thursday evening’s livestream. 

“While unfortunate in timing, the judicial council considers each instance of an allegation of election misconduct seriously,” Davis said during the livestream. “Regardless of the time they are reported, the judicial council diligently entertains the evidence provided and makes a decision on the issue independently from the rest of the election process.” 

Davis said the council reviewed the allegation for its merit, to determine whether it warranted a hearing of the election committee, as outlined by the Student Union Constitution Article XII Section 4(b).  

“In doing so, we presumed the allegation to merit a hearing unless there is simply no plausible constitutional argument under which a violation of election regulations occurred,” Davis said. 

Eventually, the council concluded no such argument existed, therefore the last minute allegation lacked merit and was resolved this morning. 

In a press release, the judicial council said this year it has begun releasing its advisory opinions to the public to increase transparency. Advisory Opinion 2021-08 details the consideration of the misconduct allegation and its conclusions. 

According to the advisory opinion, the allegation was in regards to an Instagram story that shared a post and added the line, “One of the best minds of stu gov ([former president]) just backed [alleged party.] I know how I’m voting tomorrow!” 

Parts of the language added to the Instagram story were redacted by the judicial council in line with confidentiality restrictions in Article XII Section 4(b) of the constitution. 

The council considered if this communication violated Article XV, Section 1(g)(6) — “Candidates may not seek an endorsement from or communicate an endorsement such that it can be construed to represent that of a Residence Hall, Student Union Organization, University department, office, or official” — and if the communication violated Article XV, Section 1 (g)(4), which says candidates holding the office of student body president, among other Student Union Positions, many not endorse any candidate/ticket. 

The advisory opinion said the story was posted by a member of a campaign team, not a candidate, and said the story posted did not clearly communicate a representation of the Student Union, but rather used the broad term of “stu gov.” 

Additionally, the “former president” in question graduated in 2020, the advisory opinion said, and thus their term of service has past and the individual is no longer a current member of or in service to the Student Union. 

The advisory concluded that since no candidate sought or made an endorsement, and since past student body presidents no longer hold office and are not prohibited from making endorsements, the allegation held no merit.

“The judicial council congratulates juniors Allan Njomo and Matthew Bisner on their victory and congratulates the other tickets on a fair, well-fought race,” Davis said.

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About Isabella Volmert

Isabella "Issy" Volmert is a junior majoring in English and minoring in theology and journalism, ethics and democracy at the University of Notre Dame. She currently serves The Observer as assistant managing editor. Follow her @ivolmertnews for niche JED Twitter content.

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