Parikh wins highly contested election hours after escaping disqualification

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By Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published March 23, 2012

Hours after the polls officially closed, Business junior Manish Parikh and LSA sophomore Omar Hashwi were announced as the unofficial winners of the highly contested race for Central Student Government president and vice president, though the results still may be challenged by the other candidates.

CSG election director Peter Borock said the unofficial results indicate that Parikh and Hashwi received 2,502 votes, youMICH candidates Shreya Singh and Ethan Hahn received 2,356 votes, MForward candidates Aditya Sathi and Louis Mirante received 1,353 votes, OurMichigan candidates Kevin Mersol-Barg and Amy Navvab received 1,101 votes, and the Students for Puppies candidates Andrew Horne and Daniel Ruff received 379 votes.

Parikh and Hashwi were the only candidates running without a political party in the divisive elections that drew 8,084 voters or 19.96 percent of students on campus.

After the marathon hearing that lasted nearly 12 hours and concluded just after 7 a.m. Friday, the University Election Commission awarded four demerits to Parikh and Hashwi — candidates are allowed a maximum of five demerits before they’re disqualified from the election.

After emerging from closed-door deliberations, the UEC voted on two potential violations of the election code committed by Parikh, which stemmed from the misuse of e-mail lists by Social Work student Victor Andrews, the president of the School of Social Work Student Union, who sent an e-mail in support of Parikh's campaign to several hundred students and faculty members.

Andrews, under the direction of Parikh, sent the e-mail to the School of Social Work listerv, which the UEC unanimously deemed a major infraction of election rules. Andrews also sent out the e-mail to several other listervs without instruction from Parikh, and the UEC voted 3-2 that Andrews’s independently sent e-mails were not a violation.

Andrews declined to comment on the allegations, but Parikh said Andrews didn’t knowingly break any election rules.

"He acted out of a kind heart. He did a service to the School of Social Work and I think that, yes, he’s been very unduly dragged into this entire matter,” Parikh said, adding that Andrews was "victimized."

After several votes, the UEC ruled that Parikh and Hashwi would receive four total demerits mainly because there were discrepancies between the official election rules and guidelines given to each of the candidates at the start of the campaign.

LSA junior Robert Bowen, who brought the case before the UEC and is affiliated with OurMichigan, said he did not know if OurMichigan, who jointly filed the complaint with youMICH, would appeal the UEC’s ruling.

“We haven't discussed it,” Bowen said. “We're all going to get a rest, but by the end of the day certainly we'll know.”

Regardless, Bowen said the court worked diligently to produce its ruling.

“(The UEC) clearly thought very hard, looked through some very decent precedents and had a solid basis for the decision,” Bowen said. “I think the commissioners did an exemplary job throughout the proceedings.”

While the independent candidates claimed the executive branch, youMICH won a plurality of the 57 representative seats in the assembly. According to the unofficial election results, youMICH won 23 seats, independent candidates notched 13 seats and MForward and OurMichigan both claimed 4 representative spots. Students for Puppies and the Defend Affirmative Action Party each won one seat also. There are still 11 races that are too close to call.

LSA senior Jaspreet Singh, of MForward, was elected as the student representatives to the Department of Public Safety Oversight Committee.

Hashwi said he had not slept all night, and heard that he and Parikh had won when friends called him Friday morning. Hashwi proceeded to call Parikh — who had gone back to his residence hall to sleep — several times, before Hashwi finally went to Parikhh's dorm to wake the still-sleeping Parikh.

Parikh said once logistical issues are resolved, he plans to pursue establishing a CSG polling commission or some method of gauging student support on a variety of issues.

“Omar and I are deeply committed to acting only in the interests of the students,” Parikh said. “I think that may be an interesting first step trying to step up some commission … to see what exactly the students want.”

Hashwi added that he and Parikh had been building relations with many of the representatives that were elected. He continued, saying that he and Parikh are committed to maintaing good relations with their opponents from the presidential and vice presidential race.

“Although we are competing, at the end of the day, we have similar interests and we both want to serve the students in the best capacity,” Hashwi said.

Despite the historically high turnout and his success even without a political party, Parikh was reluctant to say that he or Hashwi had done anything noteworthy yet.

“I'd be shy of saying something (like) we've created history,” Parikh said. “But I think that if we are able to return the student government back to the students, I think we'll have set very strong precedent and in that we'll have created history.”

He added that he is looking forward to representing the student body and working toward improving the experience of attending the University.

“Not only are we responsible to individual communities, not only are we responsible to the student body as a whole, but we are also responsible to a student at an individual level,” Parikh said. “We will fight for every single student on this campus. We want to make sure that is have never been greater to be a Michigan Wolverine.”

Overall, outgoing CSG president DeAndree Watson said he was extremely pleased with the turnout.

“I'm really excited to see so many students voted in the election. My personal goal was 20 percent and we came just short of that.”

Watson said Parikh's victory, particularly as an independent candidate, was something he'd “never seen”

“I think there's a perception that in order to become student body president you need to run with a strong party,” Parikh “They've shown otherwise.”

Watson added that it's important for Parikh and Hashwi to maintain the motivation they had during the campaign moving forward.

“My advice would be to sustain that energy throughout the entire year,” Watson said. “If they can do that then they're going to touch campus in ways that it hasn't been in a long time.”

— Daily Staff Reporters Austen Hufford, Andrew Schulman and Danielle Stoppelmann contributed to this report. This is a developing story. Continue checking michigandaily.com for more.

— Correction Appended: A previous version of this article misstated the listserv that Andrews sent the e-mail to. A previous version of this article also misstated which candidates won seats to the DPS Oversight Committee.