A new election calls for new regulations
Voided election results are a temporary fix to a long-term problem
The University Council Elections Committee voided the results of the UB Council student representative election on Friday, citing inappropriate use of power by current University Council Student Representative Daniel Ovadia as well as a potential leak of the election results.
Elections Committee Chair Matt Siwiec explained that though Ovadia hadn't broken any rules, the ethicality of his role in the election process - a role which he should not have had in the first place -was questionable.
During the campaign, Ovadia changed his Facebook cover photo to a "Minahil Khan for UB Council" banner and asked Student Association members, via Facebook, to change their cover photos to Khan's banner as well. Many members, though not all, did changes their photos in response to the request.
Per election regulations, representatives are not allowed to use their position to officially endorse any candidate, though they can support candidates as an individual.
Technically, Ovadia didn't violate these regulations; he used his personal Facebook profile to endorse Khan. But the separation between Ovadia as Council Rep and Ovadia as an everyday student is difficult, if not impossible, to delineate. His influence and popularity that stems from his role in student government does not simply disappear when he's on his personal Facebook page.
Undoubtedly, Ovadia displayed poor judgment and interfered in an election process that is already plagued by low voter turnout. With six candidates running for council representative in an election that attracts only a few hundred votes, Ovadia could easily sway the results.
Not only does the extent of Ovadia's influence exacerbate the severity of his poor decision-making, but as a member of the UB Council who's served since 2012, there's no doubt that Ovadia was aware of the extent of his influence. It's not just Ovadia's judgment in question here, but also his respect for the democratic process.
The Elections Committee was wise to declare the election results invalid. But the new election, which will be held in early May, will not fully resolve the issue. Ovadia's endorsement won't just vanish from the minds of voters. His effect on this election cannot be mitigated.
Although Ovadia should have had the common sense and ethical awareness to consider this, ultimately his actions, and the consequences thereof, indicate issues inherent in the election regulations more than Ovadia's behavior itself.
Students who take on the responsibility of participation in student government should demonstrate a level of integrity and common sense that eliminates the need for such highly specific election regulations, but such an ideal is clearly just that - an ideal. Student leaders should strive to adhere to a high standard of ethicality that is defined and effectively enforced by election regulations.
The current rules surrounding the election process need to be revised in order to set such a standard and to avoid creating a gray area into which Ovadia's actions fall. Behavior that is ethically in the wrong should not be technically in the right. A revised election policy should be as straightforward as possible: our campus representative should not be allowed to endorse candidates. With a regulation this straightforward, there is no room for uncertainty or debate, no gray area between right and wrong.
UB Council Student Representative election, which garners no more than 2-3 percent of the student body's votes, has been degraded by Ovadia's actions. The sanctity of the election was further eroded by the leak of results, the culprit of which is still unknown. Stricter regulations need to be generated and enforced, in order to protect the spirit of democracy at UB, no matter how meager it may be.