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By Ella Mitchell, Staff Writer • April 22, 2024

JEC investigator recommends Zidouemba’s disqualification from SA presidential race

File Photo By Lucas Cabrera Haché | Photographer
The JEC charged Zidouemba with an impersonations violation under the SA’s election bylaws.

Incumbent Student Association President Christian Zidouemba is facing disqualification from his bid for reelection as he denies charges of an election bylaw violation.

In a recommendation filed with the Joint Elections Commission Wednesday that The Hatchet obtained Sunday, JEC Chief Investigator Tyla Evans writes that Zidouemba should be disqualified from the election for “wrongfully collecting signatures” in violation of election bylaws. The JEC charged Zidouemba with an impersonations violation under the SA’s election bylaws, alleging he collected signatures for SA Executive Chief of Staff Keanu Rowe and GW Entrepreneurship Club leader Mohamed Redzuan Bin Mohamed Raffe, who are both also running for the SA’s top job.

The charges call the validity of Zidouemba’s candidate signatures into question because students might have intended to support another candidate when signing his petition to make the ballot as a presidential candidate. SA presidential candidates must earn 385 petition signatures, 1.5 percent of student constituents, from students to be eligible for the ballot, per the SA bylaws.

In a statement sent to the JEC, Zidouemba said he “always” clarifies the “purpose” of his petition when he’s collecting candidate signatures around campus, rejecting allegations that he collected any signatures for other candidates.

“I take great pride in the integrity of my signature-gathering efforts, and I would never falsely claim to have collected signatures for anyone else,” Zidouemba said in the statement.

An email The Hatchet obtained from a JEC commissioner Sunday states the commission will hold a trial Monday to determine whether Zidouemba violated the election bylaws, which stipulate that a conviction for impersonation leads to automatic disqualification from the election. The candidate can appeal a conviction to the Student Court within 48 hours of the decision, according to the bylaws.

An image of a page from Zidouemba’s petition, which was obtained by The Hatchet, shows what appears to be Rowe’s name scribbled out on a line intended for the petitioning candidate and Zidouemba’s placed above it. Zidouemba wrote in the statement that his roommate, former SA Finance Committee Chair Ian Ching, wrote in Rowe’s name on the sheet of paper, submitting written testimony from Ching as corroboration.

The recommendation states Zidouemba also allegedly collected signatures for sophomore Aidan Spencer, who is running for an SA Senate seat. Rowe and Spencer were “unaware” that Zidouemba was allegedly collecting signatures for them, according to the JEC’s disqualification recommendation.

Joint Elections Commissioner Fatima Konte told Zidouemba the JEC found “ample evidence” to charge Zidouemba with violating bylaws prohibiting impersonation while collecting signatures or campaigning, according to an email she sent to Zidouemba, which The Hatchet obtained. The email states the commission would hold a hearing regarding the charges Monday at 6:30 p.m.

Another email from Konte to Zidouemba states that Evans has until six hours before the trial to share any evidence gathered.

Evans declined to comment. Konte did not immediately return a request for comment.

Raffe said he does not “know the full truth, but it’s a weird allegation.” He said he wants the election to focus on policy, not allegations of wrongdoing.

Rowe and Spencer did not immediately return requests for comment.

Junior Andrew An, who ran a write-in campaign for SA president last year but lost to Zidouemba, submitted a statement to the JEC alleging Zidouemba impersonated Rowe while gathering signatures for a candidate petition.

An said in the statement, which was obtained by The Hatchet, that when he approached Zidouemba in the University Student Center last week to ask who the president was collecting signatures for, Zidouemba told An that he was not entitled to that information. Zidouemba proceeded to tell An he was collecting signatures for “Keanu” and then refused to say whether he was running for reelection, according to the statement.

“Near the end, I expressed my dissatisfaction regarding his lack of transparency and his refusal to disclose who he was collecting signatures for,” An said in his statement.

Zidouemba denied An’s allegation, saying it made “no sense” for him to collect signatures for his opponents.

“I would have no motive to sabotage my own campaign by collecting signatures for my competitors,” he said in an email to The Hatchet and the JEC.

Zidouemba submitted five witnesses, including Ching and Raffe.

Zidouemba submitted written testimony Sunday from Ching, who said he wrote Rowe’s name on Zidouemba’s petition.

Ching said in his testimony that he wrote Rowe’s name on one of Zidouemba’s blank petition sheets, which he said he meant as a “harmless prank.” Ching said Zidouemba never had plans to impersonate another candidate despite working “hard to conceal his intentions to run” for the presidency.

“In all seriousness, the evidence for this case is severely lacking,” Ching said in his testimony.

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About the Contributors
Zach Blackburn, Editor in Chief
Zach, a senior majoring in political communication, is the 2023-24 editor in chief of The Hatchet. He previously served as senior news editor and assistant news editor of the Metro beat. He hails from West Columbia, South Carolina.
Erika Filter, News Editor
Erika Filter is a senior majoring in international affairs from Carson City, Nevada. She leads the Metro beat as one of The Hatchet's 2023-2024 news editors and previously served as the assistant news editor for the Student Government beat.
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