Ruslan Klafehn was declared the new Student Association Vice President for Multicultural Affairs (SA VPMA) at the Student Congress meeting Monday night.
The unofficial results of the VPMA re-vote held March 31 showed that Epiphany Munoz, the unopposed candidate for VPMA, earned 23.94 percent of vote, and 76.06 percent were cast for the write-in option. Of the write-in votes, 37.9 percent were cast for Klafehn, a freshman majoring in political science. 40 percent of votes were needed to win the election.
Khlafehn’s name was misspelled on 65 of the write-in votes, which had originally been ruled invalid by the Planning, Research and Elections (PRE) committee. The SA constitution states that “unrecognizable incorrect spelling of names or nicknames” cannot be counted when tallying election results. Had Klafehn received these votes in the original election, he would have reached 41 percent.
But during Monday’s Student Congress meeting Nicholas Ferrara, a sophomore majoring in economics, raised an argument in favor of Klafehn, stating that the entire 41 percent should be counted in his favor.
“Klafehn deserved these votes. It’s clear that the student body wanted him as their new VPMA,” Ferrara said. “Would you want to be denied based off the fact that you have a hard name?”
Julie Kline, PRE chair and a sophomore double-majoring in human development and English, rejected Ferrara’s point, reading directly from the SA constitution, where the regulations are specifically stated.
Ferrara argued that since there is no comma after “unrecognizable” in the constitution, the spelling of the name on the write-in ballot must be both unrecognizable and incorrect in order to be invalid. He also argued that because Klafehn’s write-in votes had minimal spelling errors, the students were unmistakably voting for him.
“The cast votes are not unrecognizable,” Ferrara said. “It’s not against the constitution to hand him the votes he should have won.”
Chris Zamlout, the SA executive vice president and a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, was against counting the votes, saying that it would be irrational to elect a candidate who had no official campaign and who could have collected hundreds of votes simply because his friends willingly wrote down his name.
After going over the grammar of the constitution and five minutes of hushed talk amongst the PRE committee, it was announced that the 65 misspelled votes for Klafehn would count.
“The constitution was written in a way so there could be a lot of room for interpretation on a specific event,” Kline said, referring to the lack of a comma Ferrara pointed out earlier. “It’s not illegal for him to win the election.”