SGA outsider wins presidency amid election difficulties
March 28, 2020
Despite a forced restart to the SGA presidential and vice presidential elections, an SGA outsider running on a platform to get rid of the organization has won.
Juniors Ben Bieri and Peter Lally surged to victory beating out junior Owen Doherty, junior Cody Smart and sophomore Lana Al-Namee, as well as vice presidential candidate Grace Parker, a junior.
The election wasn’t without mishaps, as it had to be restarted due to alum and graduate students being able to vote.
However, this was not the first time this issue arose. Last year, alumni and graduate students also voted in the election, Elections Committee Chair Nick Bouffard, a senior, said.
“I’m under the impression that in the last election there had been some alumni votes and they had been aware of the issue during that election,” he said.
However, it was not enough to completely sway the results, Bouffard said.
“It was believed to be a small enough issue that only a single-digit number were alumni votes,” he said.
In order to fix that problem, Bouffard said a list of Net ID’s of who is eligible to vote is supposed to be put into place during the election.
But this go around, the number of votes from ineligible voters was significant, he said.
Bouffard said the SGA office staff were under the impression that the list was in place at the time of the election since it is usually the practice.
“We, as in myself and the SGA office staff, collectively assumed Student Life refreshed the list automatically,” he said. “I am not sure who, if anyone, in particular, held the responsibility to refresh it.”
To make sure it doesn’t happen again, Bouffard said since they realized the mistake, the committee has talked with Efe Çimrin, who works on Student Life, to make it a regular part of the elections workflow.
He was first made aware of voting issues on March 26 when he got a Facebook message from a previous member of SGA.
“She sent me a screenshot of a group chat where somebody had told everyone that alumni were able to vote,” he said.
Another alumna posted the ability to vote on her Instagram story, Bouffard said.
He later found that anyone who has access to the UVM Club’s platform had the ability to vote.
The plan of action for Bouffard was to try to see if the SGA office staff could halt the election and see how many ineligible votes had been cast, all while keeping the Elections Committee in the loop.
Unfortunately, a feature that tells the name of who cast the ballot was not available.
“We get to see who was selected on each ballot, but we don’t get to see who submitted the ballot,” Bouffard said.
Once the election was restarted, UVM voters were able to choose who they wanted to be president and vice president until Saturday at 4 p.m.
When the results came out, it was a surprise for Bieri.
“I thought we had a good chance of winning,” he said. “But genuinely to be here now, to be the president of SGA… it’s insane.”
Bieri came away with 38.9% of the votes, beating out Al-Namee with 32.7%, as well as Doherty and Smart.
A total of 1,778 people voted a lower turnout compared to last year’s election, which had 2,863 votes.
A different kind of candidate
Bieri was a unique candidate, in that he wants to abolish the institution that he was just elected to lead.
“It’s not really about me, it’s not about my presidency,” he said. “It’s about making things better for students who are in need.”
Even with the win, Bieri said people still doubt his campaign and what he stands for.
“I want people to know that the presidency that I will have is the betterment for every single person on this campus,” he said. “Not just a privileged few, not just some random organization, it’s going to be directly for everyone.”
Bieri said he is happy to have Lally as his vice president and admires the campaign that Lally and Al-Namee ran.
“They ran a really fantastic campaign,” he said. “I think that platform and the people who are working hard to push that platform forward deserve to be in power too.”
Bieri said he is thankful for the people that helped him during his campaign and for the other candidates that ran.
“Thank you to everyone else who ran,” he said. “I just want to say thank you to everybody, and it’s really humbling.”
Lally beat Parker by over 200 votes, taking in 54%.
There were 63 write-ins for vice president.
Lally said that even though he is excited, he is disappointed that Al-Namee, his running mate, was not elected president.
“I do believe that she was the most qualified for the position,” he said. “But I’m excited to push our platform through.”
Lally, despite being in power without his running mate, he said he will do his best to work with the situation.
“My plans are to get in contact with Ben,” he said. “And just to put my platform in place, make real change for the student body.”
Lally also wants to encourage people to vote in the Senate elections, which are next week.
As for right now, Lally said he is grateful for the support that he and Al-Namee got throughout their campaign.
“I’m really excited and I’m very thankful for everyone’s support,” he said.