A candidate in the 2015 Undergraduate Student Government elections claimed to the USG Supreme Court that a “no confidence” option on the ballot unfairly affected the results of the elections.
Former USG Sen. Luo Luo Fang filed a brief with the court on May 15 asking whether the no confidence option violated the rules of being a candidate on the ballot, records obtained by The Statesman show.
The brief also asked whether no confidence votes from the initial election results should be invalidated to amend the election results for Executive Vice President, or EVP.
In the initial election that took place on the week of April 27, neither candidate for EVP received a majority (more than 50 percent) of votes. Fang, the PARTY Party candidate for EVP, received 975 votes while Krisly Zamor, the HOUSE Party candidate for EVP, received 953 votes, while the no confidence option received 305 votes.
The election ended in a run-off without the no confidence option. This time, Zamor received the majority needed to win — 768 votes — and Fang received 757 votes.
“When the results came back, the party was obviously in shock,” Fang said in an interview. “Me and (Jason Mazza, the PARTY Party candidate for Vice President of Communications) were questioning why the no confidence option was there. Since the votes were so close, we thought the first time should have counted.”
(Disclosure: Mazza is a former staff writer for The Statesman).
This was the first time the no confidence option appeared on the USG election ballot, according to the brief. The brief also said the USG Elections Board did not follow proper procedures in order to place the no confidence option on the ballot.
The USG Code’s section on elections states: “The Intent of Candidacy deadline shall be 4:00 p.m. on the first Friday following the Information Session … A potential candidate must declare the position for which they intend to run before the deadline, or they shall be ineligible to run.”
The information sessions for the election ended March 27, but Fang said the Elections Board did not inform candidates and voters of the no confidence option until April 25 through an email, just two days before the start of the election.
The brief also said the no confidence option did not physically fit the candidacy requirements to run because the USG Code requires candidates to petition in order to be placed on the ballot, and the Elections Board’s decision to put the no confidence option on the ballot was not approved by the USG senate.
The Elections Board also did not educate students on what “no confidence” is before voting, the brief said. Voting “no confidence” means the voter does not believe any of the candidates are fit to fulfill the duties of the position.
“I feel like the Elections Board could have done a better job of educating the voters on what the option meant so that they wouldn’t just be like, ‘I don’t know these people, so I’m just going to click this button,’ ” Fang said.
Members of the Elections Board did not reply to an email from The Statesman seeking comment before publication.
Will Hackett, a resident assistant in Toscanini College, started a “Vote No Confidence in SBU USG” Facebook event to advocate for the no confidence option.
“USG has not been serving the needs of the students and has major flaws. If you do not feel a candidate will change this system, you can vote ‘No Confidence,’ ” the Facebook event’s description read.
Hackett said in an interview that he does not think his actions on Facebook negatively affected the election.
“I think I explained what I wanted to see come out of the election better than most of the candidates did in their platforms,” he said. “If me spending 12 hours on the computer affects the election more than 30 people working on a campaign, then they need to re-evaluate how they’re reaching out to voters.”
The initial election ballot result — without counting the no confidence votes — was enough to determine the position for executive vice president, making the run-off results invalid, the brief said.
“Not only did No-Confidence proven to solely extend the election process, less people also voted for the run-off, amending the decision from the initial election,” the brief reads. “With the difference of 22 votes between two candidates previously, the EVP Candidate Luo Luo Fang should have won with 50.57%, which is majority, without the No-Confidence option. Therefore, the run-off for the Executive Vice President position should be invalidated.”
Zamor said in a text message to The Statesman that she had no comment for this article.
Cole Lee, the winning candidate for president and a member of the HOUSE Party, said in an interview that the no confidence option was a “great precedent” for USG elections.
“It gave students the choice to not pick the lesser of two evils,” he said. “If you don’t feel like any of the candidates are fit for the job, don’t flip the coin.”
Fang said she has not heard anything from the Supreme Court since filing the brief, and Sarah Twarog, the chief justice of the court, has graduated from the university.