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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Presidential runoff passes quietly

A gloomy, rainy day and sparse campaign activity Wednesday marked a stark contrast from the last two weeks of legal battles that have characterized the Student Association presidential election run-off.

The latest ruling in the contest between juniors Ben Traverse and Audai Shakour, the top two finishers in the SA general election three weeks ago, came from the Student Court early Wednesday morning. The body decided that despite 90 authorization e-mails from Law School interim dean Roger Transgrud, law students on campus this week will not be allowed to vote by absentee ballot.

Shakour brought the suit, claiming that counting the absentee votes would unfairly give law students a voting advantage. Traverse carried the Law School vote in the general election and is expected to win their support in the run-off as well, but this late decision could result in a loss of votes from law students.

The court decided that according to the Joint Elections Committee charter, a student must not “be able to be on campus” to qualify for absentee voting, which the dean authorized for students who are on campus.

“The letters, in their current form, do not constitute proper certification that the students listed are not able to be on campus,” the court wrote in the 3-2 majority opinion.

Trangsrud said his authorization e-mails were originally sent out because the run-off was slated to take place over the Law School’s spring break. The date of the election was changed, however, to ensure that all possible voters were in D.C.

“I think it’s unfortunate that many law students are going to be forced to vote a second time,” Transgrud said in response to the court’s decision.

He added, “The student association bylaws are their own rules and are subject to their own interpretation.”

Senior Lee Roupas, who represented Shakour in the hearing, called the rejection of the dean’s authorizations, “a victory for students.”

“The court rightfully recognized that all GW students will have an equal opportunity to vote in the scheduled run-off election now,” Roupas said.

However, Michelle Tanney, who represented Traverse, said the court’s decision is “a gross misinterpretation of the rules.”

“To prevent the law students from voting via e-mail under a mere assumption of the facts is the definition of disenfranchisement,” Tanney wrote in an e-mail on Wednesday.

Tanney argued that while law students will be attending classes this week, absentee voting should also apply for students who have other obligations and do not have an opportunity to vote.

With the battle over Law School voting finished, the danger of both Traverse and Shakour being kicked out of the election due to violations still looms.

Traverse was found guilty of another infraction Tuesday night, bringing his total to six, one shy of the maximum limit allowed before disqualification. The violation dealt with promises the candidate made to increase Student Bar Association funds.

The JEC gave Traverse one penalty for the violation and found that he was in violation of section 112 of the group’s charter, a portion that forbids candidates from promising money to a certain group to gain political support.

Tanney, who also represented Traverse in front of the JEC, said that section of the charter is “ambiguous.”

“The intent of section 112 is if a candidate negotiates a contractual bribery for votes in return for increased funding,” Tanney said. “Ben was just discussing the issue of student organization funding, just like every other candidate at the (Student Bar Association’s) endorsement hearing.”

Traverse said the entire violation process has discouraged students from voting. “Students don’t really care about court cases and JEC violations,” Traverse said. “Students want real tangible results from the SA, not bickering.”

The JEC is also investigating whether there is probable cause for a rule breach involving palm cards Traverse handed out in a Law School classroom. The election charter mandates that no campaign material be handed out within 50 feet of a polling place; Law School classrooms fall within that boundary.

Shakour has five violations and faces two more. The JEC will rule on the violations Thursday night, before votes are courted. If that violation were filed, it could come with up to three penalties and put Shakour in danger of being ejected from the race.

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