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Election board chair claims results are invalidated, but doubt hangs in the air

The Student Government Association’s election board chair, Robert Caverly, sent an email yesterday, May 5, stating that the election board had voted to invalidate the results of last week’s election for all positions.

Caverly, who was in favor of invalidating the results, argued that a lack of transparency and communication with the election board highly raised the risk of falsified votes. The board, he said, voted by a majority to not verify the results.

That vote is now being contested on two grounds:

  1. That Caverly incorrectly counted those voting for invalidation.
  2. That the election board acted outside of standard procedure, therefore invalidating their vote over the verification of the results.

Should the election board’s “vote,” as Caverly describes it, be considered authentic, the election as a whole will be scrapped and a new one will be scheduled.

The elections, lasting from April 27 to April 29, ended with presidential candidate Bentley Corbett-Wilson and running mate Mona Patel narrowly edging out a victory. The pair won by just nine votes, or .5 percent, over sitting Treasurer Tristan Oetker and his running mate Pandora Wilson.

The board met with SGA Advisor Craig Berger a day after the elections ended to discuss the results, but were still considering penalties for election violations for various candidates. The group decided they would not hear the results until that work was finished, but the official announcement of the results was scheduled for just two days later, on Monday, May 2.

Caverly received the results just before the official announcement, in the form of a Word document.

A day after the results were officially announced, Caverly sent out an email to all of the SGA candidates claiming that “there was no proof whatsoever that they were authentic.”

The election board had a meeting the next day on May 4. Vice President of Student Affairs Nancy Young, university attorney Chris Tkacik, the department of information technology’s Ken Schreihofer and Craig Berger were all in attendance.

“Basically what we got out of the meeting was that they couldn’t give us the spreadsheet results because they were afraid it would be providing too much student information,” said Caverly. “They did show me the spreadsheet during the meeting, but I wasn’t able to retain a copy in order to run any test to check for irregularities.” It is unclear what tests Caverly planned to run.

On Thursday, Caverly notified the candidates, members of SGA and various members of the campus staff of the election board’s decision.

In the email, he claimed Berger had refused to provide him access to the poll both during and after the voting period.

The election board has, thus far, brought no evidence of vote tampering forward. Caverly noted this in the email: “This decision does not reflect that the results were or were not manipulated … Because definitive proof is nearly impossible to attain at this point, the fact that manipulation was possible means that the validity of the results has been compromised.”

Caverly hints at possibility of fraud

There are concerns among members of SGA about Caverly’s reasoning and the board’s vote to not verify the results.

“Craig Berger refused to give the results during the election despite my request … I felt like it would hinder my ability to see if there were any illegal happenings,” Caverly said.

During the election, the board is charged with penalizing candidates for violations. “I see where [Berger] is coming from because it could [have influenced] the outcome of our decisions on punishments,” he added.

Berger declined to comment.

“The board has always had access to results during and after the election in the past, and to deny the board access to the results both during and after the election was unprecedented and insulting. I asked if he could show me the spreadsheet there, and he said he had been instructed to consult legal council before he gave them to me,” Caverly said.

According to last year’s chair and current senator, Evan Leiter-Mason, “There is no set rule concerning whether the board chair will be able to see the results in real time. It’s not clear to me how Robert would use the spreadsheets to verify the authenticity of the results … I never asked for them and they were never provided to me.”

“We have not seen anything in this election that could speak for voter fraud occurring,” said Jack Seuss, vice president of information technology. He claims that access to the results was highly restricted, accessible only by employees of the department of information technology.

Was there really a majority of members on the board who voted to invalidate?

Other concerns have been raised about the election board’s methodology in carrying out the vote. Instead of meeting in person to make decisions, this year’s election board has habitually voted via text message.

Caverly set a deadline for all members to tell him whether or not they believed the results should be invalidated. Three members got back to him: one in favor of invalidating, one in favor of validating and one who felt he needed more time and conversation to decide. This member sent an ambiguous text saying he was “in the affirmative,” but offered no further clarification as to what he meant in the group message. The fourth member did not respond because the board hadn’t yet planned a meeting with DoIT, who had relevant information to provide.

Caverly assumed that the unsure member was actually in favor of invalidating the results, and therefore believed a majority of the election board – three of the five members – had decided to not verify the results.

Today, the member who felt unsure announced that he had seen enough evidence to validate the results. The fifth member – who never texted Caverly in response – said he is also in favor of validating the results, leaving three in favor of validating and two in favor of invalidating.

Is the Election Board’s Utilization of Text Messaging to Cast Votes Allowed?

Additionally, some have argued that the way the vote was carried out was not in accordance with the SGA’s governing rules. UMBC’s plan of organizations – a document outlining rules for each of the representative bodies on campus – states that the SGA and other organizations are bound to follow Robert’s Rules of Order.

Robert’s Rules, a set of generally accepted methods for organizing, governing and carrying out meetings, state: “meetings [must] provide, at minimum, conditions of opportunity for simultaneous aural communication.” In short: text messages do not suffice because there needs to be space for audible conversation.

With the board’s vote and the subsequent lack of clarity on the conditions of the vote, it is unclear whether or not Caverly’s claims represent the true attitude of the election board as a whole. Considering the dictates of Robert’s Rules, it is unclear whether or not their vote to dismiss the election was valid to begin with.

Despite the confusion and controversy, inauguration is currently scheduled for Monday, May 9. It has yet to be determined whether any elected officials will be sworn in by then.