SGA disputes election results

Tim Downer

Tim Downer

Tim Downer

Northern Kentucky University officials announced Andy Hixson and Jeff Iker are the new Student Government Association president and executive vice president for the 2004-2005 school year.

However, the SGA Election Committee disputed the election results and plans to let the Board of Regents decide the issue.

The SGA Senate voted April 19 to send the Election Committee’s election results to the Board of Regents for certification. The committee determined that Eric Fegan and James Pollitt had won the election, despite having received fewer votes than opponents Hixson and Iker. Dean of Students Kent Kelso announced April 16 that Hixson and Iker had won the race.

According to poll results released by Kelso’s office on April 16, Hixson and Iker received 826 votes, and Fegan and Pollitt received 727. Voter turnout was at an all-time high, with 1,579 students casting ballots.

“The students have spoken,” Hixson said. “I’m very excited.”

Fegan declined to comment.

Sen. Mike Vaughan, chair of the Election Committee, said the turnout was 60 percent higher than the record of approximately 1,000 votes several years ago.

The Judicial Council removed Hixson from office on April 12.

The council also deemed him ineligible to be elected president because he has not served on the Senate or Judicial Council as specified in the SGA constitution.

Hixson appealed the eligibility ruling to the Dean of Students’ office on April 13.

Kelso overturned the ruling on April 14, and said Hixson is eligible to be elected.

Vaughan called April 19 for an examination into Kelso’s role in the election.

He said the committee refuses to acknowledge Kelso’s announcement that Hixson and Iker won the race, nor will it accept his ruling that Hixson was eligible to be elected.

Vaughan accused Kelso of altering the SGA Web site, and preventing the committee from changing the ballot.

Vaughan also said Kelso was “overstepping his boundaries.”

Sen. Heather Gilmore requested a copy of Kelso’s job description to confirm this accusation, but administrators did not say whether they would make that information public.

Vaughan asked the Senate to certify the Election Committee’s version of the election results. Sens. Nathan Hagler and Lindsay Hunter questioned whether the Senate had the authority to do so, and Hunter proposed sending the results to the Board of Regents for certification, a motion that the Senate accepted.

“The students have spoken through the ballot, and that should be final,” said Lovingson Mtongwiza, a former SGA senator.

Vaughan said the election had turned into a “debacle,” and that Kelso had “prevented the election committee from fulfilling its constitutional duties.”

“We have anarchy when we don’t follow the rule of law,” said Vice President for Student and Academic Affairs Trey Orndorff.

Orndorff also said he “firmly disagree[d]” with Kelso’s revocation of the Judicial Council’s decision.

“The dean’s decision is final,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Mark Shanley. “He played the role specified for him in the constitution. The executive committee and Judicial Council have no further role or jurisdiction.

“The students have voted their choice, and the university affirms the vote of the students. I concur with the dean’s decision,” Shanley said.

Shanley said that Kelso’s intent was to “ensure fundamental fairness.” He added that the university must be fair to both student government and the student body.

Shanley said that he and Kelso consulted with legal counsel on the issue and he expressed confidence that Kelso “acted without bias.”

Dean Kelso declined to comment on the matter.

SGA President Chris Pace also asked university officials to provide the IP addresses and names of each student who voted in last week’s election, allowing Chief Justice Dave Caddell to certify the election results and ensure they had not been tampered with.

SGA senators and executive board members questioned President James Votruba on the issue at hand.

Votruba had been present at the meeting to review the university budget with SGA members and announce an impending tuition increase.

“This feels like a very contentious partisan campaign,” Votruba said.

“The difficulty for me is trying to understand how that becomes students versus faculty.

“There’s a time to get personal. There’s a time to get accusatory.

“But don’t pull that trigger as the first line of defense, because there’s nothing left after that.”

Votruba then expressed assurance that Kelso had done his job correctly.

He also urged SGA members to examine their own organization to see how the election could have been handled differently.

“Right now, I don’t see student government as a winner,” Votruba said.

“We’ve had strong interaction between the university administration and student government here for the last seven years. My greatest worry is that that’s gonna be lost.”

Students also elected Sheena Dunn to Vice President for Administrative Affairs, Amanda Bailey to Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, and Jennifer Perry to Vice President for Public Relations.

Elected senators include Mike Tobergta, Jesse McDonald, Tiffany Evans, Holly Caudill (who resigned from the ballot prior to the election but was not removed, according to Vaughan), Richard Washington, Jared Moore, Kurt Herschede, Dustin Lewis, Derek Schaefer, Lucas Hammons, Branden Kiely, Shingirai Zinyema, Ashley Dorris, Dave Ginn, Jeffrey Cowens.

Vaughan announced that Benjamin Harrison would replace Caudill in the Senate.

Nathan Hagler and Josh Estep were elected to the Judicial Council, and a proposed new SGA constitution passed by a vote of 698-475. The constitution is subject to final ratification by the Board of Regents.