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Fake candidate Karlos Marks wins MSA seats

BY CLAIRE GOSCICKI
Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 27, 2011

Despite his apparent popularity among the student body, Karlos Marks — a fictional write-in candidate in last Thursday’s Michigan Student Assembly and LSA Student Government elections — is ineligible to hold office on campus.

Marks received 520 votes for the position of MSA president, earning the second-highest number of votes in the category and placing him ahead of candidates LSA freshman Briana Hatcher and LSA sophomore Lena Cintron of the Defend Affirmative Action Party by 68 votes. LSA juniors DeAndree Watson and Brendan Campbell of the MForward Party earned 2,319 votes and will become the next MSA president and vice president, respectively.

Results show that Marks and other variations of his name, including Karlos Marx, Karlos Markus and Carlos Marx, received votes for MSA representative positions within the Ross School of Business, College of Engineering and Rackham Graduate School, among others.

Marks also received 132 votes for a spot on the Department of Public Safety Oversight Committee — an advisory body which hears grievances filed against DPS — technically qualifying him for the second student-held spot on the six-person committee. LSA junior Ellen Steele, who ran uncontested, will hold the first student seat.

LSA junior Breah Patterson, elections director for MSA, said since Marks is not an enrolled student, he is ineligible for a spot on the DPS Oversight Committee.

The second student currently on the committee will be graduating this spring. To fill the position, MSA planned to choose a write-in candidate with the most amount of votes, since the election was uncontested.

It is likely, Patterson said, that the position will be fulfilled by LSA junior Michael Pry, a write-in candidate who earned 12 votes, which was the fourth-highest number of votes in the category.

The most recent version of the MSA constitution states,“No representative may run for election or hold office representing a constituency of which that person is not a member.” Additionally, students cannot run for positions under aliases, though Marks does not appear to be an alias, Patterson said.

However, DPS Oversight Committee procedure documents do not explicitly outlaw certain students, fictional or real, from holding positions.

The Every Three Weekly, a satire publication on campus, began endorsing Marks as a write-in candidate for MSA president this month in an effort to demonstrate its dissatisfaction with MSA and its governing.

Campbell said he was not surprised by the attention Marks received and feels that the fictional character’s popularity was due to student frustration with MSA.

“I expected that write-in candidates receive quite a few votes because students are rightfully frustrated with an assembly that is not as active as it could be and is not as aggressive in publicizing its own successes,” he said.

Campbell said that when he takes office he hopes to make the government more reflective of student needs.

"I'm really looking forward to taking my experience and my knowledge and applying those principles to the assembly in hopes of making the Michigan Student Assembly a better advocate and a more aggressive force for change on campus," Campbell said.

Despite frustration from students, Campbell added that he believes MSA has made progress this year.

"I think too few students recognize the great things MSA has done over the past year, from dramatically changing the housing policy for transgendered students to giving service organizations access to free vehicles for service projects,” Campbell said.

Patterson also expressed her and fellow MSA members’ disappointment about the lack of seriousness toward the elections.

“You do have to expect it, that someone is going to write-in something kind-of crazy,” she said. “I think that (Marks) has definitely been a thorn in our side, especially since he earned more votes than we were expecting.”

Patterson added that it’s not unusual for voters to write-in offbeat nominees. This year, write-ins for various positions included “Central campus squirrel,” Harry Potter and George Clooney.

While Marks’s votes were strong across categories, the number of total voters decreased from 14 percent of the student body in fall 2010 elections to 11 percent this spring.

Briana Hatcher, candidate for the Defend Affirmative Action Party, said she was frustrated by the lack of student concern for MSA elections. Despite her discontent with the election results, she said she plans to run for an MSA position again next year.

“I was a little disappointed that there was only a 11 percent turnout,” Hatcher said. “I wish there were more students who cared about how elections turned out."

In an effort to increase voting, voting stations were placed at locations such as the Michigan Union, Michigan League and Pierpont Commons for the first time in a decade. Students also had the opportunity to vote online.

In an interview last week, MSA president-elect DeAndree Watson said he was happy with this year’s voter turnout.

“I'm at least excited that over 10 percent of the student body decided to vote in this election, especially considering that it wasn't the most contested,” he said.

Campbell echoed Watson’s sentiments, but said there is more progress to be made in terms of voter turnout.

“I don’t think you can be satisfied until all of campus votes in student government elections,” he said.

Patterson said that though she hoped more students would have voted, she was pleased by a turnout that was higher than originally expected by MSA officials.

“We think that students should want to have an active role in selecting and participating in government,” she said. “We can only hope for the best and hope that that message comes across to everyone.”