SGC-MMC Elections Board Violates Elections Code, Putting Students and Candidates at a “Disadvantage”

Teresa Schuster/Staff Writer

SGC-MMC elections are in less than a week, but most of the information about the candidates and initiatives remain unreleased to the student body.

The SGC-MMC elections code specifies that the ballot must be finalized at least two weeks before elections, and that the official candidate list and information must be published on the SGA websites at least seven business days before.

Those deadlines were March 3rd and 6th, respectively. 

The delay was originally due to a software glitch that matched candidates to incorrect majors, according to Tatiana Arevalo, SGC-MMC’s elections commissioner. 

While the software has been fixed, the elections board is still working on switching the candidates back to their correct positions, and Arevalo said that this is taking a while.

“We’re apologizing [for it],” she said. “[It was] something that I had no control over.”

The delay left students as well as SGA members unaware of who and what they would be voting for. The first time senators heard the list of candidates eligible to run for office was at Monday’s senate meeting, only a week before the election.

The official election dates had not been posted anywhere on the SGA’s website or social media pages until PantherNOW asked about them. Arevalo said this is because the flyer with the dates contains other information which needs to be finalized first.

“I can’t really discuss [it],” she said.

The dates were posted on the “fiuelections” Instagram page late on Tuesday, after a phone call from PantherNOW, but the ballot and candidate information remain absent, along with other important information.

The elections board has also not yet decided if students will be able to vote online or in-person, which is complicated by FIU’s encouraging students to remain off-campus due to the coronavirus. Arevalo said SGA is waiting for further updates before they decide their next move.

Most of the information from last year remains on the elections website, which candidates said could mislead students.

Changing the election date was discussed at a University-Wide committee meeting earlier this month, with SGC-MMC senate speaker David Nivia expressing concerns there would not be enough time for students to educate themselves about the things they are voting for, since one has not been on the ballot for years.

“We weren’t sure of procedure and how the information should be exposed and promoted,” Nivia later told PantherNOW.

However, the committee ultimately agreed not to postpone elections.

Multiple candidates have expressed frustration about the situation.

“We have a very short amount of time to put our name out there,” Julio Burgos, a first-time candidate for senate, said. “It puts me at a disadvantage.”

The campaign manager for the Roar! political party, Angel Algarin, said that the delay is unsettling to candidates, who currently are only allowed to campaign with conditional status.

“Did [they] just waste all [their] time campaigning?…Will administration say [they] can’t run?,” asked Algarin. “[They] should have known that the day after [they] submitted [their] application.”

Aravelo doesn’t think the delay will significantly affect student voters, saying that she’s “not entirely sure” how many actually pay attention to the election information.

“If you really wanted to you could have gone out and spoken to several different organizations,” she said, mentioning that the elections board has hosted town halls for the candidates and offered to help facilitate their outreach events.

When asked about the situation, Michelle Castro, SGC-MMC’s advisor, also downplayed its significance.

“It’s life. Things happen,” said Castro, declining to comment further.

The election information isn’t the only thing that’s been delayed. The deadline for candidate registration was pushed back for weeks after almost no one signed up to run at Biscayne Bay Campus. Currently, BBC has only 4 candidates for senator and no one running for president.

SGC-MMC has a history of election blunders. Last year, problems with the ballot software led to a runoff election, after students were only allowed to vote for one seat when several were available.

That prompted this year’s software change. But despite being tested at FIU Homecoming, it has now already malfunctioned weeks before elections start.

At Monday’s senate meeting, Aravelo and Castro assured worried senators that software issues during the election wouldn’t happen again this year. But the other issues remain unresolved.

Elections are currently scheduled to be held on March 17th and 18th. Students will be able to vote for their campus’s president and vice president, at-large senator, and senator for their college.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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