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The Student News Site of Principia College

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The Student News Site of Principia College

The Pilot

Constitutional violations prompt revote in student body presidential election


In an unusual turn of events, this year’s student body presidential election has been nullified. Student senate has voted for a reelection to be held Friday, April 21. This nullification comes in response to a pair of presidential candidates voting for themselves multiple times and one of those candidates being present in the voting area while voting was taking place.  

During the vote authentication process, it was discovered that presidential candidate Neha Bandrapalli and her running mate, Luigi Furlan, had voted for themselves twice and three times respectively, violating the student government constitution. While their extra votes were not counted, Bandrapalli and Furlan still won the first election.

Elvis Ajuoga, the outgoing student body president, discussed in student government’s senate meeting Wednesday evening, April 12, the issue of voting multiple times and what should be done to ensure a fair election. After determining that a reelection could be an equitable approach, an electronic poll was sent to senate members so everyone could vote on what to do. A senate majority vote decided a reelection for the student body presidency and vice presidency would be held. 

“The reason why it’s a big deal is because it’s not a good look when the people running for the presidency are the only people who double voted,” Ajuoga said. Section 6.4 of the constitution reads, “Each student enrolled at Principia College shall have one vote.” Ajuoga also said if someone double votes, the second vote will become invalidated.

Bandrapalli, who currently serves as student life representative on student senate, does not see her double vote as a big deal. “It was two votes, so it’s not like I was scheming to increase my chances with a singular vote,” she said. “I understand how people might question how it feels malicious.” 

Despite Bandrapalli and Furlan’s extra votes being nullified, they won the election with a majority vote. Ajuoga said this was the highest voter turnout in recent years.

Both Bandrapalli and Furlan said that they had no malicious intent. “I voted through my phone, but when I refreshed the page, I felt it didn’t go through. So, I voted again and then I got the confirmation,” Furlan said. “And just to make sure because I did not think I was voting multiple times, I voted on my laptop, but not out of malicious intentions,” he said.

Furlan said that he asked Bandrapalli if she received a confirmation after voting and when she said she was unsure, she decided to vote a second time. 

Bandrapalli said the software allowed people to vote multiple times even though it required each student’s Principia email address and P01 number. “I don’t think anyone voted with the understanding that your vote would be counted twice,” she said.

Bandrapalli and Furlan said, as candidates, they knew how important voting was and wanted to ensure their votes had been submitted. “To hear that they are questioning this is weird because it was such an afterthought,” Bandrapalli said. 

“The counting of votes was supposed to be confidential so it hurts the integrity of the election process that information that multiple voting happened was leaked to people,” said Bandrapalli.

Outgoing student body vice president, Kaya Equevilley, said Bandrapalli and Furlan’s multiple votes were, “a question of morality.” Equevilley and administrative representative Roz Hibbs are in charge of counting the votes and ensuring their validity. Hibbs said that although Equevilley received all the votes, she could only see who voted and how many times they voted but not who they voted for. 

Bandrapalli’s presence at the Info Booth while voting took place was also part of the reason for a reelection, according to Equevilley. “In the [Student Government] handbook it says that they’re not allowed within 25 feet [of the voting area], let alone manning the booth,” she said.  Equevilley also said she takes full responsibility for the mistake of not making this information clear and recognizes that this can never happen again. “But it was disappointing that nobody caught it,” she said.

Donbosco Ngeso who is running with Hannah Wymer against Bandrapalli and Furlan said he trusts the credibility of the process. “It’s not for me to judge that process,” Ngeso said. “What we believe is that we had trusted the institution and the results that they brought to us were subjective to scrutiny by them and by their stakeholders.”

According to Ajuoga, student government will do everything it can to protect the interest of the student body. “I really hope the students understand that everything we do is for them and with them,” he said.

The headline of this article was changed after its original online publication in order to reflect the contents of the article as best as possible.

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