Ahmed claims injustices in Student Association election

Treasurer candidate believes election proceedings favored party candidates

The Spectrum

Ali Ahmed, a treasurer candidate in last week's Student Association election, feels he was treated unfairly throughout the election process and thinks the election was invalid.

Ahmed, who ran independently, said various members of SA - whether intentional or not - hindered his ability to effectively campaign and be a viable candidate in the election. The Value Party's Sade Cadle was elected treasurer. SA has ruled the election was valid, but Ahmed disagrees with that determination.

Ahmed admitted he still probably would have lost if he were treated fairly, but it is the principle behind the injustice - and the potential future injustice toward students who choose to run independently - that he finds necessary to point out.

"I simply was not treated as an equal candidate," Ahmed said. "I understand that I don't have a party, I didn't run on a party's ticket or have anyone with me, but I think it is completely unreasonable to ignore a candidate. I had the sheet, I signed up, I got the signatures, I went to the meetings and put the time and effort in ... But I was still ignored."

On Feb. 23, the SA Senate passed an amendment specifying the window of time for the election. This year's election didn't take place within that time, but SA officials say the new amendment doesn't take effect until next year. Ahmed says SA's bylaws state otherwise.

He received 155 votes in the election. His opponents, Cadle and Juan Jimenez, received 1,021 and 965, respectively.

Ahmed's election grievances include being left off of emails, receiving late invitations to speaking events and being mistreated on the election floor, which is located in the Student Union.

Accusation against e-board
March 24, SA President Sam McMahon and Vice President Judy Mai sent an email through the SA listserv, which goes to the e-boards of all SA clubs, addressing the validity of each party's platform. Ahmed's name was not included in the list of candidates and his ideas were not addressed.

Ahmed said he sent an email to McMahon and Mai asking why he was left off the email. McMahon said there was nothing he could do at that point, according to Ahmed.

When The Spectrum asked about Ahmed's complaints, McMahon responded in an email: "I don't have any comment with respect to Mr. Ahmed's accusations."

Ahmed said students who saw McMahon and Mai's email told him they did not know he was running for treasurer.

"You are influencing the students by letting them know what is going on and who the candidates are," Ahmed said. "If you ignore me, you aren't treating me fairly as an equal candidate. And especially if I am an independent, it is even bigger because I am banking on these mediums to get my name and my message out there, which was completely ignored."

Ahmed secured endorsements from two of the six SA Councils, one more than Cadle.

Accusation against Assembly
March 11, SA Assembly Speaker Melissa Kathan invited the Impact Party and Value Party via Facebook to speak about their platforms at the Assembly meeting the following day.

Ahmed claimed he was invited "last second" and the other candidates were informed "a lot earlier." Though the meeting was canceled because of the weather, he still feels the principle is evident.

Kathan said she was unaware Ahmed was a candidate for treasurer. James Ingram, the SA president-elect who ran with the Value Party, noticed Ahmed was not invited and informed Kathan of the oversight.

She said upon receiving Ingram's message, she immediately contacted Ahmed and invited him, which was about an hour after she sent the original invitations. Ahmed never responded, she said.

Kathan said her position as Assembly speaker calls for her to remain neutral during the election. But she feels running as an independent is difficult in itself.

Ingram agreed, but he said he doesn't think Ahmed was "intentionally treated unfairly."

"I do think just by the nature of it, when you do have a full party ticket, there's more people talking about it, there's more people getting other people informed and excited about it," Ingram said. "For Ali trying to do that on his own, it's just harder in general."

Accusation against Election and Credentials Committee

Fifteen supporters of each party were allowed to campaign on the election floor during the election. All supporters received lanyards designating the party they were backing.

Because Ahmed didn't attend the first day of the election, Election and Credentials Chair Matt Siwiec assumed he wasn't going to campaign the next two days, Siwiec said.

"It was my fault; I take the blame for that one," Siwiec said. "I tried to scramble and get them made ... but that is beside the point. If I was to treat all three parties fairly, I should have made the passes. It was an oversight on my part."

The validity of the election

At the February Senate meeting, senators approved six amendments for the SA Constitution in under an hour, in what Ahmed called "the infamous Senate meeting."

The second amendment passed states: "Elections of officers shall take place no earlier than six weeks before the last day of classes and no later than three weeks before the last day of the spring semester."

Because of this amendment, Ahmed claims the election was invalid because it took place seven weeks before the end of the semester.

According to the constitution, any amendment made by the Senate must be signed or vetoed by the president. If the president signs the amendment, the "By-Law change shall take effect immediately." If the president takes no action, the bylaw change shall take effect after seven school days. Ahmed said the amendment was not vetoed.

Before the results of the election were announced, Ahmed brought his objection to Siwiec. Siwiec, some SA members and SA lawyer Joshua Korman looked over the objection but ruled the election valid.

Korman said the election process had already begun in January and the amendment was passed during the election period, Ahmed said. According to SA rules, New York State law takes precedence over the SA Constitution, and according to state law, if bylaws are changed during an election period, then the election period supersedes that change. The amendment would take effect after that.

Siwiec confirmed Korman's reasoning for the ruling.

Ahmed, who has worked in SA the past three years as an SA assemblyman and senator, called the SA election system a popularity contest and thinks qualified candidates are overshadowed by the presence of parties.

"It speaks to how much the SA elections are about party politics; it's not about the individual anymore," Ahmed said. "You're leaving out the biggest part: the students' voice. You're forcing it to be something about popularity and how many people you know and not about qualifications anymore."

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