Michelle Marchante/Assistant Opinion Director
Controversy is around every corner when it comes to the upcoming SGA elections and Access FIU’s presidential candidate, Jose Sirven and his sudden ineligibility to run for president. According to a previous Student Media article, Juan Gilces, vice president of SGA explained that Sirven’s ineligibility came from the fact that he had to hold an SGA position for at least a year, as stated by the Constitution of the Student Government Association. Sirven argues that his position as president of the Residence Hall Association does count as an SGA position but the Supreme Court says otherwise.
The reason for Sirven’s ineligibility to run would have made sense if they had stated it from the very beginning of the election process, yet, according to a previous article published by Student Media, Sirven’s application to run for president was initially approved by the Elections Board. So why has this confusion come about just two weeks before the elections? He’s either eligible to run or not.
“We looked at multiple documents that are SGA laws and these documents clash with each other,” Luis Callejas said in a previous interview with Student Media.
If we decide to ignore the fact that SGA shouldn’t have conflicting documents to begin with, we’re left with the problem they’re causing student voters. The students who plan to vote will find themselves staring at a ballot that not only has Alian Collazo’s name but the disqualified Sirven and his running mate, Devondra Shaw’s.
It only makes sense that if the candidate is no longer running then they shouldn’t be in the ballot but due to the elections being two weeks away, SGA is unable to take his name off the ballot. Unfortunately, not all of the students who go to vote will be aware of Sirven and Shaw’s disqualification and those who decide to vote for him will find themselves virtually casting an empty ballot. Their voice will be left unheard and it would be like they didn’t even go to vote. Kind of sounds like a dirty trick doesn’t it?
Keeping the names of disqualified and out-of-the-running candidates on the ballots seems to be a common occurrence though in the political world as the same thing occurred in Florida during this year’s primary election. At the time of Florida’s primaries, the Republican candidates who were still in the running were Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and John Kasich – yet, all of the disqualified Republican candidates were still listed on the ballot.
There are only two plausible explanations for this. The first, is monetary, where the ballots were already printed before the time of the primary and it would cost too much money to reprint them. The second is that it’s a way for the establishment to give the candidate of their choice a higher chance of winning. Unfortunately, both of these explanations are probably true.
By keeping the name of the disqualified candidates on the ballot, the electoral system is confusing the voters and to an extent even silencing them. If you go to vote and you find that your preferred initially disqualified candidate is on the ballot, you will most likely find yourself checking the box next to their name. You’ll assume that they’ve returned or that you were previously misinformed but for every check next to a disqualified candidates name, that vote has just been lost and thus you’ve just casted an empty ballot.
When it comes to the monetary cost of the ballot, if that were to be the reason, the ballot shouldn’t have been printed until a couple of days-at most a week- of the primary. The same can be said for the SGA elections that we’re going to see here on campus on April 5 and 6.
For whatever reason SGA has for disqualifying Sirven, the fault is SGA and SGAs alone. There has been contradictory documentation within SGA on what classifies an official SGA position and while I cannot speak on what the decision of Sirven’s running should be, this problem will only hurt the student voter in the end.
The way I see it, SGA has three options: Push the elections back until a final decision on Sirven and Shaw’s case is made, reprint the ballots or go with the initial decision done by the Elections Board which is to let him run and let the student voters decide. After all, the worst thing a democratic government wants is to make their voters feel as if their votes- their voices- don’t matter.
April 1, 2016 UPDATE:
“The reason [the ballot] did not change suddenly due to [the] decision of the SGC-MMC Supreme Court is because the Elections Code states that if the presidential candidate is disqualified within two weeks or less from the first day of voting both the Presidential/VP tickets must remain in the ballot pending any appeals to the Vice President of Student Affairs,” Gilces said to Student Media. “The response to the appeal from the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs was sent out on March 30th and now the Elections Board will move forward in removing Mr. Sirven & Ms. Shaw from the ballot for the elections taking place on April 5th & 6th.”