Pending election litigation to delay convening of new CSG assembly
Incoming Central Student Government representatives may not be able to officially gather until a week or more after their intended first meeting April 3 due to pending election litigation that prevents the certification of election results.
The case in question is MVision’s allegations against Engineering junior Michael Nwansi, the elected MomentUM Engineering representative. MVision reportedly observed and photographed Nwansi influencing a student while voting in the CSG election, a violation of CSG’s election code.
In a written decision dated March 28, the University Elections Commission ruled against Nwansi and MomentUM, issuing Nwansi four demerits and the MomentUM party one demerit, reducing Nwansi’s vote count by 12 percent and MomentUM’s vote count by three percent. According to CSG Election Director Brian Koziara, a law student, the demerits would cost Nwansi the seat he won, though the runner-up is also a member of MomentUM. Koziara said the one demerit issued to MomentUM would not affect any other representatives.
MomentUM is now appealing the decision to the Central Student Judiciary on the grounds that the UEC issued its decision outside the 36-hour time frame following a hearing. Koziara said MomentUM argued the 36 hours should have begun at 9:15 p.m. on March 26, after the UEC heard MVision vs. Nwansi. But Koziara argued the 36 hours began at 1:00 a.m. on March 27, after all cases had been heard. MomentUM is also challenging the UEC’s issuance of a preliminary order ahead of a full opinion, which Koziara said they had to do because they also had to rule on a number of “frivolous” cases.
“MomentUM was one of the parties that brought a lot of cases right before the deadline, so it’s funny that they’re complaining that we didn’t get them their full opinion within 36 hours when all of their complaints that they brought were part of the reason we were so swamped with work,” Koziara said.
After initially declining to comment on the litigation before it was resolved, MomentUM’s counsel, law student Brett Frazer, said Koziara never had the authority to issue a preliminary order. Furthermore, Frazer said, Koziara told momentUM they would not be allowed to appeal his decision, though the CSJ later unanimously allowed their appeal. Frazer also took issue with Koziara’s characterization of the cases brought before the UEC, suggesting Koziara gave greater lenience to cases brought by MVision.
“While the Commission did, in fact, dismiss every single complaint filed and argued by every party not named “MVision” (and curiously dismissed none of MVision’s several complaints and counterclaims), they have not provided any legal justification for doing so,” Frazer wrote in an email to the Daily. “It is, of course, certainly possible that every party except MVision exclusively filed “frivolous” complaints—and MVision exclusively filed meritorious ones— but we find this unlikely. The Commission this year only permitted one party—MVision—to argue their complaints on the merits.”
In an email to several members of the current CSG executive board, Koziara emphasized MomentUM was “free to withdraw their appeal at any time,” which would allow the UEC to certify election results and expedite the transition process for the next CSG assembly.
Law student Tom Allen, who is serving as counsel to MVision, said because the case has been appealed to the CSJ, MVision no longer had the option to drop the case themselves.
“Although we definitely stand by the decision, just in terms of getting the assembly in as soon as possible is of a much higher interest to us than really any case,” Allen said. “But the ability to drop has been taken out of our hands, and at this point the election director is defending his own decision.”
Incoming CSG President Daniel Greene, a Public Policy junior and member of MVision, said while he respected MomentUM’s and Nwansi’s right to due process, he was concerned about the consequences of not being able to convene the new assembly until April 10 or later.
“It’s now a weird –– I don’t want to say unprecedented, but an abnormal situation because the seventh assembly, or the individuals who served this past semester, were told that last Tuesday was their last meeting," Greene said. “So what’s really happening is that this case pending will likely result in CSG not having quorum on Tuesday, rendering it ineffective and unable to take any actions.”
Greene said the appeal delays his official confirmation along with the nomination and confirmation of other CSG executives, meaning he can’t meaningfully reach out to student organizations.
“Unfortunately, the student buy-in and willingness to meet, considering upcoming finals, is different from just the candidate who won versus Central Student Government formally reaching out to student organizations, and I’d prefer to use CSG executive resources in terms of the listserv information and the contact people, which I can’t get until the official transition begins,” he said.