By Anthony Johnson
The 2015 SGA presidential election has proved to be an intriguing chain of events for the North Park campus. There has been a lot of tension and high emotion surrounding this process over the past few weeks. I am sure that faculty and student body alike are happy for things to have finally come to an end after an interesting series of occurrences. This election will go down in history as the first to have a re-call and then a re-vote. Not only that, this election is also the first to have been called off a second time which meant there needed to be a second re-vote.
There has been a lot of speculation surrounding the election process this year and outsiders can only ponder on what truly happened. I know these happenings that have unfolded caused a lot of questions. Let us start out by addressing the big ones. In the beginning of the 2015 presidential elections there were three teams. These teams consisted of Marcellous Hazzard and Jose Fuentes, Isaac Bauer and Sam Selke, and Jamel Banks and Jamarcus McCardell
In the following weeks Hazzard and Fuentes decided to drop out of the election and support Banks and McCardell. One may ask as to why they did this? I spoke with Hazzard and he told me “The campaigning became intense and heavy and I figured being president would only intensify things. I was no longer sure if I would be able to lead an entire student body as a president if I could not get through the campaigning process.” This clears any rumors that may surround as to why they decided to resign.
During the countdown to the voting process of the first election I had some brief chats with Banks about his feelings towards the process. At the moment everything seemed to be going smoothly and he told me “What happens is what God wants to happen.” I am almost certain that no one was expecting what was going to happen next.
The actual dates that students were allowed to vote were February 23 and 24. The voting polls were closed on the 24 at 11:45 p.m. This allowed for the votes to be tallied and for the call the go out at midnight announcing the winner. When it came to 12:00 a.m. on February 25, the call went out to Bauer and Banks. They were both told that Bauer had won the election by one vote.
This is great and/or awful depending on who you are and who you supported. In any manner, it can be said that both Bauer and Banks would have accepted their fate and continued on with their lives. The controversy comes in here. On February 24 there was a student who approached Banks and told him she wanted to vote for him, but when she clicked the voting link that leads to OrgSync, the system said she had already casted her vote. This can be a big deal already but think about this. The vote that was casted on this student’s account (who will be later identified as Anosi Thomsen) was in fact a vote for Bauer.
Once Jamel was informed that he lost the election he reached out to the SGA election board and administration alike to inform them about the information this student told him. After some research they were able to summon the results from the poll. They discovered that underneath this student’s vote there was a name and ID number that did not match.
I spoke with Brittni Hensel, who at the time was the Chief Justice of the election board. She told me when the board discovered this information they knew they had to act in a manner that was fair for the candidates and for the entire school. After some discussion within the board, she told me they felt the most logical and ethical thing to do was have a re-vote. This time they would be make sure everything goes through smoothly.
The controversy surrounding this decision was that student body and faculty did not know about this information. When there are major events occurring and people do not know the reason behind the occurrences this leaves an opportunity for rumors to fly. The rumors that surfaced throughout the campus were that there was a breach in the system, there was a glitch in Org Sync, there was foul play from someone in SGA or one of the candidates, etc. I was someone who did know a lot about what was going on either. The rumors were the only information that had reached my ears.
When it came time for me to write this article I had to find out why there was a re-call in the first election. When the information about the invalid vote on this young lady’s account was relayed to me I found it only logical and appropriate that I speak to this student myself. This student's name is Anosi Thomsen. She was very open and friendly about speaking to me on behalf of what occurred when she tried to vote.
The story Thomsen told me is that one of her friends (who will remain anonymous) was on Thomsen's computer checking her Facebook account when she saw a link to OrgSync for the presidential poll. Thomsen told me that she set her computer up to where she is automatically logged into all of her social media accounts, including OrgSync, whenever the website is summoned. When Thomsen's friend clicked the link to Org Sync she was automatically allowed access to Thomsen's account. The friend told me she did not realize she was not logged into her own account. When Thomsen's friend went to cast her vote she was asked to enter her name, ID number, year of study, etc. Once this was done she was able to choose which candidate she would like to be president and voila! Her vote was sent in and Thomsen had no idea this happened.
Once word spread through campus that there would be a re-vote there was a lot of discussion and preparation towards this event. “Why are they doing this?” was the big question and I’m positive a large number of people felt that this was not addressed appropriately. The second election also known as the re-vote was scheduled to take place on February 26, 2015. The night before the second election I was directed to the re-vote Facebook accounts of Bauer and Selke as well as Banks and McCardell. They seemed to be very similar in the works. The really huge thing that stuck out to me though, was the fact that at 10:26 a.m. the next morning, there was a mass email sent out by Bridge on behalf of Bauer and Selke.
The email was titled “Bridge Is Proud To Endorse Isaac and Sam – Here’s a Letter From Them!” The letter is more of a narrative from Bauer. In the letter he explains how he felt when he was told that he had won the election, and also how he felt when he was told there would be a re-vote. He goes over his main platform on what he hopes to accomplish in office, gives insight and wishful thinking, and then addresses any speculations of fraud on behalf of Selke and himself. Bauer ends the letter by encouraging students to vote for him and says thank you.
This letter stirred up a lot of animosity because those who were followers of Banks and McCardell believed this was an unfair advantage. Being able to send every student an email would certainly help your campaign. Even so, the election process continued on that day until more mishaps began to occur. In the first round of elections there were voting booths in disclosed locations around campus, but in the second round there were none. Due to this, supporters of Banks and McCardell were encouraged to set up booths around campus for students to vote. All was said to be going well until a student who was set up in the Johnson center was asked to leave. This caused people to be livid because at this point there was a lot of discussion that the SGA board and administration alike were choosing sides.
Then all of a sudden, around 1 – 2 p.m., the second round of the presidential election was called off. Being a student and also a spectator I was able to witness the raw emotion of those who were huge supporters of their candidates. There was a significant amount of frustration and anxiety seeping through campus. By this time I could already tell that a lot of people had lost interest in this election.
What it comes down to is why did they call off the re-vote? Let’s backtrack for a second. Remember the letter from Bauer and Selke that was emailed the morning of the re-vote? The mass email that students received was actually not approved by the SGA election board. When I spoke to Hensel she told me that Bridge was a separate source of campaigning. She told me the election board had no word of the email until it had already been sent out. In a sense, the letter was actually seen as an unfair advantage and had been deemed illegal campaigning by the board. I spoke with Bauer about the letter and he went on to explain to me that he had asked Bridge to vote to endorse him. Bauer received 75 percent of the votes from the organization and because of this he was allowed to advertise through them. Bauer says that he did in fact write the letter but he told me that it was all with good intent. He wished to use Bridge as a form of campaigning but he did not wish to violate any rules of the election.
On the other hand, the voting booths were also deemed illegal campaigning. When I spoke with Banks about the booths he told me: “I got the idea from a meeting prior to the day of the second election. SGA officials would not be able to personally set up booths on this day and candidates would not be able to set them up as well. Candidates are not allowed within 50 ft of the voting booths. They did not say we could not have friends sit at tables with a laptop for voting purposes.” Once the election was called off again the board clarified that if everyone is using one device to vote (phone or laptop) then it becomes a “booth”. In effect of these unapproved actions from both Bauer and Selke, and Banks and McCardell, the election board found it best to call of the re-vote.
This puts us at a stand-still. There were a few days or so where no one knew what exactly was going to happen next. Then there was an announcement. During the week before spring break there was email sent out that said the presidential election would be completely restarted. This meant that candidates would have to petition again, campaign again, and more or less create their image as a leader once again. More importantly, new candidates were allowed to enter the election.
I was told that at this point both teams who were in the running were unsure of what their next move was. When I spoke with Bauer around this time period he told me that his running mate, Selke, was uncertain. After conversing with her on the idea of running again, Bauer was told Selke did not want to run again due to personal reasons. Bauer told me that even though she felt this way, she was still behind him and fully supported the decisions he would choose to make. Bauer had some serious choices ahead and a lot to think about. Once he thought long enough and came to a conclusion, he reached out to Banks.
After a couple meetings, a little back and forth, and some phone calls, Banks and Bauer decided they would be running together. Bauer told me: “I feel that Jamel and I both have great qualities that can be brought to the table and I believe we are both great leaders. At the end of the day, we want to bring people together, not separate them.” He goes on to tell me that his former running mate, Selke, receives the credit for this idea. I spoke to Jamel about their decision and stated: “My main goal is to create true community and school spirit on this campus. With that being said, we are putting both of our strong suits together. We realized that we could get a lot more done together than we would separately.” Jamel’s former running mate McCardell fully supported this decision as well.
Classes resumed after spring break and word spread that Banks would be running again with Bauer as his vice president. It’s a huge question as to who would want to run against the two presidential candidates who at this point are on a team together. Banks and Bauer would be greeted by a familiar face, as Hensel, the now former Chief Justice of the election board, would be running against them with Linda Rivera. The third round of the presidential election went as smooth as one could have expected. After the last of the votes were sent in, Banks and Bauer were crowned the winners of the 2015 presidential election. When I spoke to Banks and Bauer about their thoughts on winning, they both told me they were very content with the way things turned out.
This article is meant to inform, but it also puts some questions in the air. Earlier, I stated that the first election was re-called because of an invalid vote. The invalid comes from when a friend of Thomsen mistakenly voted on her account with intent to vote on her own account. If you were to vote during the first round of elections the form asked you to enter your name and ID number. With that being said, why doesn’t OrgSync match names and ID numbers when someone casts a vote? Is OrgSync really the most efficient way for students to vote? What if there was some sort of discrepancy that went on behind closed doors? Banks and Bauer both told me that they themselves decided to run together. Even so, what if there was some outside influence that encouraged them to join forces? I spoke with a faculty member in Student Activities about all of this information, but she did not wish to be quoted. I guess I can understand. With that being said, why does North Park do such a good job at keeping information hidden? What are their decisions really based on? Above all, Jamel Banks and Isaac Bauer are the new Senior President and Vice President of our prestigious school; North Park University. If you are to see either one of them around campus, be sure to greet them with a hello and congratulations