UPDATED April 17 4:18 p.m.: Elections Committee Co-Chair Michael Pugh told the Torch in a statement, “Carley — Co-Chair of the Elections Committee — and I were working with each other to aid in the elections process and worked to follow our bylaws as close as possible. Of course, those bylaws never anticipated the allegations of ballot changing and what not, and nor did we think that was possible, since the company we used for the elections ballot was outsourced. I can assure you that there was no ‘collusion’ — a hot-button word in today’s world — between our committee and the P.R.I.D.E. ticket because Carley and I wanted to ensure a fair and unbiased election between two exemplary tickets.”
In response to the specific violations reported by the L.I.T. ticket, Pugh said that they were not filed as violations, according to their bylaws and the elections packet. Campaigning before the designated time by any ticket was designated with a warning.
“This election season was definitely unprecedented and unexpected on our end,” Pugh added. “As the elections committee, being short staffed as it was, we tried our best to generate the most fair and beneficial election as possible, and of course, we came up quite short on that note.” Pugh has provided the Torch with the official election tallies, listed below.
Matthew Macatula: 2240 votes
Johnny Wiley: 1413 votes
Clyde Drayton: 2149 votes
Aziza Fullerton: 1504 votes
Nia Gumbs: 2038 votes
Victoria Campbell: 1615 votes
Nnaemeka Ifeajekwu: 2035 votes
Hannah Sesay: 1618 votes
Anna Gibson: 1787 votes
Irene Gorosave: 1402 votes
Christopher Viola: 464 votes
Nicolas Bautista: 2003 votes
Michael Outlaw: 1650 votes
Natasha Yanghthito: 1896 votes
Austin Bovino: 1757 votes
In a statement to the Torch, SGI President-Elect Matthew Macatula defended his P.R.I.D.E. ticket’s sweeping victory against allegations of voter fraud and cheating, calling the criticisms from the losing L.I.T. ticket “completely baseless.”
Macatula insisted that there was no corruption, collusion or voter fraud, a direct contradiction to the accusations that some students have levied against them since the results were tallied on April 5. Members of the L.I.T. ticket have detailed multiple allegations in line with student concerns.
“We believe that the opposition was simply caught off guard by our family and expected elections to be easy,” Macatula said.
The campaigning process lasted about three weeks after the tickets were formed. Many who are not involved with SGI may not know that there is an Elections Committee that oversees the process; which includes an application, informationals and even a test on the SGI constitution.
They are also in charge of enforcing rules and handing out violations.
L.I.T. presidential candidate Johnny Wiley told the Torch in an interview that they went to the Elections Committee and reported multiple violations.
The first time, they said they were told that it was “under review” and never heard back afterward. The next time was when Wiley and fellow candidate Hannah Sesay claimed that P.R.I.D.E. members sabotaged their campaign. On the Tuesday night before elections, “We were going around all the buildings… to put mini flyers in the classes and writing on the boards,” Sesay says, claiming that this was within the campaigning rules.
Sesay said she saw two members of the P.R.I.D.E. ticket erasing what they wrote and writing “Vote P.R.I.D.E.” “When we walked in, both of them walked out of the room, giggling,” Sesay said. She added that she saw a phone and laptop charger in the room and ripped L.I.T. fliers in the trash. She then took pictures and reported it to the Elections Committee.
“The Elections Committee investigated every complaint it received from both the P.R.I.D.E. ticket and the L.I.T. ticket,” Jack Flynn, SGI Advisor, told the Torch.
Neither SGI President Atemkeng Tazi nor Flynn responded to the specific allegations raised by Wiley and Sesay, and the Torch also reached out to the Elections Committee late Tuesday night for comment.
“We don’t know if they were reprimanded or not. We were under the impression that they already had two violations … We assumed that would be the third one. Three violations result in dissolution of the ticket,” Sesay said.
However, it is difficult to overturn a ticket. Sesay and Wiley believe that Flynn really did pursue an investigation but it was concluded soon after.
In addition to Macatula’s statement, Vice President-Elect Clyde Drayton also defended P.R.I.D.E.’s tactics in an interview with the Torch. “There’s been a lot of allegations against us … I have timestamps on my phone, of when we were making cupcakes till three in the morning,” Drayton said. “We were too busy to even think about cheating.”
He also added that they had been looking into changing the voting process since last year because this isn’t the first time, he says, that students have claimed the elections are rigged. Drayton maintains the position that P.R.I.D.E. played it clean.
Voting in this year’s election, and last year’s, required a St. John’s University email and an X- number.
“We want [the ballots] to be emails and the ID number, because nobody can really access ‘nine’ numbers but the students themselves. We also tried to get pictures on the ticket platform … all things that we couldn’t get accomplished,” Drayton said.
Wiley told the Torch his specific suspicions about the election process, saying, “A lot of people came to me and said that their vote came in early and they were not able to vote. We then told them to screenshot it and send it to elections, and I told them to CC me so that I could follow up with elections.” He added that one student showed him that her receipt said her vote was cast at 8 a.m., when she would normally be asleep.
When it came down to the actual election day, the process revealed concerns similar to those in a national election.
Drayton says that students would ask him who they should vote for, since some thought that they could only vote for tickets. “Yes, we’re running as a ticket, but people don’t know that you can vote for each individual,” he said.
When it came to reminding people that they can vote for anybody, he said it was “hard for [him] to do that sometimes.” Overall, P.R.I.D.E. said they want to make sure that there’s a closer eye on the process of campaigning, “because if nobody trusts the student government, then how can that executive board get work done?”
“Repeated rumors, allegations, and fire starters will only harm the student body and the relationships Student Government, Incorporated maintains,” Macatula adds.
Wiley has since decided to end his involvement in SGI. “I will always be suspicious of the results of this election,” he said. “However, I have my fingers crossed that they do well. Their success is St. John’s success and that is all that we can ask for. While I will be here during this transition period, I believe that this election is the end of my time in SGI.”
As Macatula and Drayton start their jobs as president- and vice president-elect, they are excited to start serving the student body. “We are extending this culture of respect, integrity and family to all of St. John’s,” Macatula said.
Inauguration is set for April 29, but the new executive board has already gotten to work — a recent SGI email to the student body lists Drayton and Macatula instead of the sitting president and vice president.