Megan ZerezMercury Staff
POSTEDApril 2, 2019
Bylaws ‘not clear’ in determining necessity of runoffs
This year’s race for Student Government president was initially the only race that resulted in a runoff election. SG bylaws suggest that at least two other close races — one for vice president and one for the sole EPPS Senate seat — should also have triggered runoffs.
Briana Lemos, the director of Student Development, advised candidates Tuesday morning that the race for the EPPS Senate seat would result in a runoff, after students pointed out inconsistencies with the election code.
In an email, Lemos said the “intent (of the bylaws) is not clear due to being poorly written and that a revision…needs to happen.”
A two-person race, such as that for the EPPS Senate seat, leads to a runoff if “neither candidate receives 50% plus one vote of the total ballots cast for that position,” according to SG bylaws.
The EPPS senator candidates, political science junior Carla Ramazan and economics sophomore Thomas Hobohm, differed by only one vote: Ramazan earned 99 votes to Hobohm’s 98.
50% of 197 total votes cast is 98.5 votes. In order to avoid a runoff, a candidate would need to earn at least 99.5 votes — one more vote on top of 50%, but the bylaws do not dictate rounding procedures.
Economics senior Alexander Holcomb, the chair of SG’s Election Board, said the board had initially interpreted the bylaws to mean that a simple majority would win the race, with no runoff necessary.
“I think the wording and intention of the 50% plus one vote was meant to win by majority,” Holcomb said. “Even though it doesn’t mathematically work out in this case.”
In the three-candidate race for vice president, public affairs junior Hope Cory, the Tier One candidate, was certified as the winner without a runoff. According to SG bylaws, a runoff is necessary if a candidate in a three-person race “lacks 40% or more of the total votes cast for the position or the margin of victory is less than 1% of total votes cast for the position.”
While Cory met the second condition — her margin of victory was 6.24 percent — no candidate in the VP race won more than 40 percent of the total vote. Cory did not respond to requests for comment prior to publication.
Finance junior Kyle Tupper, the second place candidate in the VP race, would have been Cory’s opponent in a potential runoff.
“I agree that the current SG bylaws regarding elections are poorly written and the intent behind the run-off rule is not clear,” Tupper said in an email. “However, I stand behind how the rule is being interpreted and am not interested in participating in a run-off.”
Holcomb said that in regard to the VP race, after reviewing the wording with Lemos and Dean of Students Amanda Smith, the board had decided to stand with their initial interpretation.
“Whenever it’s three candidates or more running, the 1% margin of victory is the determining statement (for a runoff) — essentially saying, was it close enough or not, and in this case (Cory) won by about 6% or 200 votes,” Holcomb said.
Smith was unavailable for comment prior to publication.
“While one of the stipulations was met for a run-off, the other was not, which means that a decision in favor of the top earning vote getter was made,” Lemos said in an emailed statement. “There is agreement across the board that the Student Government bylaws need to be revised in order to avoid situations like this in the future.”
Hobohm, who ran on the Labor ticket, said that shortly after the certified election results were posted early Friday evening, he was confused about whether a runoff should take place.
“I found it strange that no one reached out to me extending the offer (for a runoff),” Hobohm said. “I didn’t contact them because I thought the onus was on (SG’s Election Board) to reach out.”
Hobohm said he ultimately decided not to raise the issue because he didn’t intend to participate in a potential runoff, citing confidence in his opponent and a lack of personal resources to continue campaigning. Hobohm conceded via email Tuesday morning shortly after the new runoff was announced.
Holcomb said that SG plans to revise and clarify several sections in the bylaws, particularly the lines addressing runoffs and campaign practices. The SG Senate voted to establish an ad hoc Governing Documents Review Committee Tuesday evening.
“I understand that these bylaws are poorly written and rewritten by students, but I’m just interpreting it as I read it.” Holcomb said. “We were planning on sitting down and doing a bylaws revision anyways and making sure this gets fixed.”