VOC party's president, vice president and Initiative party's treasurer win UB SA e-board election

Students from two different parties elected after highly competitive race


In recent years, Student Association executive board elections had forgone conclusions, where parties ran unopposed or one party was practically poised to win.

This year, the highly competitive election left many students uncertain who would be victorious. Members of the five parties running crowded the SA office with bated breath, nervously awaiting the results of the election until the winners were announced.

After a close race, Black Student Union (BSU) Vice President Leslie Veloz, Latin American Student Association President Jamersin Redfern and SA head outreach coordinator Janet Austin were named SA president, vice president and treasurer respectively for the 2017-2018 school year.

Veloz and Redfern ran on the Voice of Change (VOC) Party while Austin ran on the Initiative Party. Aishat Keshiro, who ran as VOC’s treasurer on a separate ticket was just 15 votes short of being elected. While only 2,535 students voted in the election, out of roughly 20,000 undergraduates, this year’s voter turnout doubled from last year’s much less competitive election when 1,254 students voted.

Veloz will be the first black SA president since 2006 and the fourth ever in SA history. Redfern will be the first black SA vice president since 2005 and the second ever in SA history

Veloz and Redfern received 853 votes while Austin received 784 votes.

Veloz, Redfern and Austin celebrated together with Redfern overcome with emotion in tears after the results were announced.

Redfern said although The Spectrum’s exit polls indicated that he and Veloz were in the lead during the three-day election, he was still nervous about the outcome. He said as he awaited the results in the SA office, he felt as if his heart was going to “fall out of his chest.”

“My party always had it’s heart on its sleeves and in our heads we were extremely humble because all of the candidates were extremely qualified and all of them were coming from the administrative level of SA while we were coming from working directly with our clubs and especially with students,” Veloz said.

Veloz said the election is a “huge step forward” for people of color and minority students.

“For our freshmen, sophomores and juniors [of color] who are coming in and being able to see somebody that looks like them and being able to hold these positions will have an amazing impact,” Veloz said.

Although Austin did not run in VOC’s party, she is excited and confident that she can work alongside Veloz and Redfern and form compromises, especially because they have a lot of the same ideas.

Veloz said she knew it was a possibility that if elected, she might have to work with a treasurer from a different party. But Veloz said she is ready to work with Austin to advocate for the student body.

VOC campaign manager Cletus Emokpae felt like a “proud dad” when the results were announced. Emokpae spent “many sleepless nights” with the VOC party helping them practice their speeches and getting students to vote.

“When I say we are the party of the people we really are the party of the people because the people really came out and showed they believe that a change is necessary on campus and they believe in our candidates,” Emokpae said.

Thirteen students from five parties ran for positions on the SA e-board.

Devasish Agarwal, Peter Jowdy and Austin ran for president, vice president and treasurer respectively on the Initiative Party. Agarwal and Jowdy came close to victory with 788 votes. Alexis Ogra, Alicia Stepniewski and Peter Pranata ran for president, vice president and treasurer on the Action Party. Ogra and Stepniewski received 528 votes while Pranata received 559. Riley Oates and Angie Quilla ran for president and vice president on the Integrity Party and received 317 votes. Ali Kaba ran for treasurer independently on the A.K. Party and received 184 votes.

Some students found the numbers from the votes confusing, even raising questions about a vote recount, but SA elections and credentials chair Dan Christian said although he understands the confusion, the numbers are entirely correct.

Christian explained that not every student who voted for a president and vice president voted for a treasurer and not everyone who voted for a treasurer voted for a president and vice president.

Roughly 100 students only voted for a treasurer and roughly 200 only voted for a president and vice president. Christian said if the total votes for president and vice president are added separately from the total votes for treasurer, one could see the 100-200 vote discrepancy.

Christian, a member of SA’s e-board, two SA pro-staff members, workers from Erie County Board of Elections, SA’s attorney and a member of the elections committee each independently took down the numbers from the voting machines and added them. They went over every vote total together to make sure they each had same number of votes in front of chief justice of Student Wide Judiciary.

Christian said they each added the same exact numbers on the first count.

Voting machines are certified by Erie County Board of Elections by registered poll workers.

“The machines are automated so there’s really no need to recount the election unless there’s a reason that we believe we had some sort of major issue, which none of us believe,” Christian said. “No one who has been working SA elections for over 20 years now sees any issues with it.”

Christian said if SA were to run a re-election for treasurer, they would have to find a reason to nullify the entire election results and do the entire election over again. But he says there has to be a huge “burden of proof” of error in the election to warrant this.

Christian said there were a lot of “really qualified candidates,” which he found “amazing to see.” He’s thankful for SA’s marketing team for spreading the word about the election and commended each of the candidates for their hard work.

Although Ogra’s party didn’t win, she said she looks forward to working with the incoming e-board and feels they share many of the same platforms and goals.

“The other campaigns did a great job as well but the defining factor was that people really related to us,” Emokpae said. “We’re not trying to sell you something. We’re not try to pretend we’re something. We’re not fake. We’re not here to sell you a dream. We’re not trying to be political with you. We’re trying to let you know that these are the people that are going to be responsible and I think the aura of our party spoke for itself."

Ashley Inkumsah is the senior news editor and can be reached at ashley.inkumsah@ubspectrum.com