By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 25, 2012
In the wake of a series of lengthy hearings in relation to last week’s controversial Central Student Government presidential election, members of the University Elections Commission called for a review of the election code to prevent similar occurrences in the future.
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The five-person committee voted 3-2 to issue only four demerits to recently elected CSG President and Business junior Manish Parikh, just one short of the five demerits that constitute disqualification. The decision came following a marathon hearing, which began Thursday at 7:30 p.m. and ended on Friday at 7 a.m.
The hearing proved crucial in determining the eligibility of Parikh after the election results were tabulated and showed he had won.
Parikh, and his running mate LSA sophomore Omar Hashwi, garnered 31.54 percent of the vote. YouMICH candidates Business junior Shreya Singh and LSA junior Ethan Hahn finished second with 29.7 percent of the vote. The MForward and OurMichigan candidates finished a distant third and fourth.
Election director Peter Borock wrote the commission’s opinion from the hearing and voiced his thoughts of the election code.
“The Central Student Government Compiled Code article on elections is poorly constructed, containing a number of incoherent, ambiguous, contradictory and absurd provisions,” Borock wrote in the opinion’s first sentence.
Thursday’s hearing was convened to discuss an e-mail sent in support of Parikh to numerous e-mail listservs. Back-up election director Elson Liu said the e-mail reached several hundreds of students, a concerning number for a race that was only decided by 146 votes.
“We’re talking at least 800 students (who received the e-mail),” Liu said.
Liu said the commission ultimately decided not to issue Parikh enough demerits to disqualify him from the election because the connection between Parikh and Social Work student Victor Andrews, the president of the School of Social Work and the student who sent the e-mail, was difficult to determine.
“We weren’t able to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Manish knew that Victor was going to e-mail lists other than the ones of the School of Social Work,” Liu said.
Liu, who wrote a dissenting opinion in the 3-2 decision, said he considered the decision to be an egregious error.
“Even on that alone, that’s a pretty serious breach of the election rules when you reach an audience of hundreds of students and you break the election rules to do so,” Liu said. “That’s most of the basis of my dissent.”
Borock said the commission received a total of 17 complaints, which he added might be the most it has ever received.
“This is my first time sitting on the University Elections Commission, but I would imagine that’s the most they’ve ever heard or quite close to it,” Borock said.
Borock said the lengthy process was more indicative of faults in the election code, rather than immoral campaigning tactics.
“I think this was a really clean election actually,” Borock said. “I think it speaks to the fact that the election code is really poorly written.”
He added that most demerits were issued for minor affairs, like poor attendance at mandated meetings.
“The vast majority of demerits issued were because people missed their meetings,” Borock said. “It’s incredibly clean … students at the University of Michigan have a lot to look forward to in great leadership next year.”
Borock said he did not anticipate the hours that being election director would entail, noting that in the past month he said he has worked 115 hours on the elections, after being told it would only be about 20 hours.
Borock provided examples of some of the less practical rules the election code contains, including strict regulations on party names.
“One of the absurdities of the election code is … the first letter of each word has to be capitalized,” Borock said.
Under those circumstances, youMICH, OurMichigan and MForward are breaking election code, Borock noted. However, Students for Puppies did not break this rule.
“So technically, if a case was brought up, we would have to give violations and demerits for that which would just be absurd. It would just be absurd,” Borock said.
Still, the seemingly never-ending case that spanned Thursday night until Friday might not be over yet.
LSA senior Katy Tylus, the youMICH campaign manager, said youMICH will be appealing the case to the Central Student Judiciary, the judicial branch of CSG.
Law student Betsy Fisher acted as counsel for Parikh, and said she and Parikh also plan to appeal the decision, as a reaction to the youMICH appeal.
“We’re only appealing because we anticipate that the other side will appeal,” Fisher said. “If they’re going to argue that (Parikh) should get more demerits we need to make a counterargument.”
Law student Ryan Gersovitz, the CSG chief justice, said he has not received any formal appeals yet. According to Gersovitz, the average time — which is subject to change — for CSG to hear an appeal is a week and a half, adding that CSG could remand the case back to the UEC, which was supposed to have held its last meeting yesterday.
In response to the problems in the election code, Business senior Matt Eral, a member of the UEC and the speaker of the assembly, said he plans to introduce a resolution to ensure last week’s incidents never happens again.
“The title is ‘a resolution amending the compiled code to strike the election code in its entirety,’” Eral said. “It’s going to be sponsored by every member of the University Elections Commission.”