After deciding Eduardo Luiz Móntañez was wrongfully disqualified from this spring’s St. Thomas University Students’ Union election, the appellate board has ruled for the presidential ballot to be recast.
“Since it was STUSU who faulted Mr. Móntañez by illegitimately disqualifying him from the election, then the onus is on the STUSU to have a fair recasting of the ballot to include Mr. Móntañez,” said Jeremy Keats, chairman of STUSU and this board.
Keats said there will be no nomination period and all other presidential candidates will be given the option to not have their names on this ballot.
Brianna Matchett, vice-president student life, said there will be a three-day campaign period: Monday, March 20 to Wednesday, March 22, in which physical campaigning will not be allowed.
“Since it will be a relatively short election, we encourage only online campaigning,” she said.
The voting period will begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday March 23 and close at 6 p.m. on Friday March 24.
Móntañez said he has mixed emotions but he is happy with the outcome.
“I think the appellate board made sure to weigh all the pros and cons and made the proper decision in regards to my disqualification.”
Móntañez was disqualified from the election by chief returning officer Erickson Miranda for not removing suspected false campaigning information in time and having more than the allowed number of posters in Sir James Dunn Hall.
After hearing the CRO did not do his due diligence in checking the legitimacy of the first complaint, the appellate board agreed the warning was invalid.
“Mr. Móntañez proved to Mr. Miranda that the complaint against him was unsubstantiated and that he did, in fact, have the experiences he claimed. It is obvious that Mr. Móntañez went out of his way to prove the facticity of the claim that Mr. Miranda cited as being unacceptable in his initial warning,” Keats said.
The board found the second warning valid.
President-elect Philippe Ferland, who will have to run for presidency after winning it, said the appellate board did their job correctly.
“They analysed the evidence well and they looked at both sides of the argument and so I think it’s the correct decision based on the evidence,” he said.
However, Ferland said he is nervous about having to run again.
“It’s kind of nerve-racking especially since I’m so busy with school right now trying to finish a thesis. It’s an unfortunate situation, specifically for me, because I have the potential of losing the re-election, so that makes me kind of nervous and worried a bit. But at the same time, there isn’t much I can do so I’m just going to go through with it.
“It’s like Murphy’s Law, anything bad that can happen will happen. It’s kind of like that feeling,” Ferland said.
Sam Titus, vice-president education, is not as happy about the decision.
“I’m honestly really disappointed. I think we are throwing away our most successful election yet,” he said.
“With such short notice and so close to the end of the year, I can’t imagine we’ll get even 50 per cent of the turnout we had last time. Obviously, I accept the ruling of the appellate board.”
He said logistically, this election is not ideal.
“I’d be happy to be proven wrong. Maybe all of this will inspire students to be more participatory,” he said.
Miranda, the chief returning officer, said he respects the board’s decision but he was surprised by it.
“I thought we had enough evidence to prove that my decision on disqualifying his candidacy was correct. However, I am acknowledging my error and the ruling made,” he said. “I hope to improve moving forward.”
The board awarded Móntañez six remedies: The recasting of the ballots, having election reform to clarify what campaign material is deemed “unacceptable,” having election reform to put the burden of proof of a complaint on the CRO before it becomes a warning, having a public apology from STUSU at a meeting, having a proposal for election reform to hold election so that there is a period long enough to host re-elections in the case of an appeal and, finally, adding a section to the bylaws providing a framework for a recasting of a ballot in case this happen again.
All evidence considered by the board and the complete final decision are publicly available. Students can email Keats to access them.
Previous candidates Nahomi Lopez and Saru Gupta are not sure they will put their names in this new ballot, while Oriana Cordido said she will for sure.
Since this is an unprecedented occurrence at St. Thomas, The Aquinian would like to encourage open and honest conversation and reach out to you, the student. If you have any opinions or would like to share your reaction email email@example.com and we may share it with the rest of the student body.
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