The closest Central Student Government race of the decade is not over yet, as ongoing litigation between Make Michigan and The Team could alter the outcome of the presidency.
There have been nine complaints made by both parties overall, but three have yet to be decided on and the results are expected to be released on Wednesday. Each case’s outcome has the potential to result in demerits against either party, and if both receive more than 10 demerits, they will be disqualified from the race.
So far, The Team has received four demerits for destruction of campaign materials — party members were found guilty of erasing promotional Make Michigan chalk advertisements and replacing it with “Vote the Team.”
Neither party has been disqualified yet; however, individual candidates have. Art & Design sophomore Tanner Petch, a candidate for The Team, and First-year Law student Stevin George, a Make Michigan candidate, were both disqualified for e-mailing listservs that did not belong to them.
While Make Michigan has yet to receive any demerits, the results of Monday night’s hearings could drastically change that. The Team charged Make Michigan with harvesting 5,719 e-mails from listservs that were not theirs. If found responsible, Make Michigan will be penalized with up to more than 17,000 demerits.
Make Michigan has also alleged that The Team and its Representative Manager Andrew Loeb, an LSA senior, harvested 534 e-mails. Subsequently, The Team could be charged with up to 1,602 demerits.
Third-year Law student Paige Becker, the University’s elections director, said in an interview Sunday that the potential demerits could result in the disqualification of both major parties and their entire slates of candidates.
If this were to happen, she said the Defend Affirmative Action Party would win the election, and LSA junior Keysha Wall and LSA sophomore Katie Kennedy would respectively become president and vice president of CSG. In addition, all members of each disqualified party in the legislative branches would be removed as well — meaning that only DAAP and independent candidates would remain in power.
Though 22 percent of the University student body voted in this year’s election, the voter turnout was actually one of the highest returns in recent years.
DAAP received 742.05 votes — 17 percent total, which is less than a quarter of what The Team or Make Michigan received. Though last week’s election was decided by five votes, the chance that the final outcome could be determined by litigation — not the popular vote — has lead some students to question how much their participation really matters.
LSA freshman Molly Aronson said she felt it was her responsibility to vote regardless of how much of an impact doing so actually had on the election results. However, she added, the trials take away from the significance of that responsibility.
“I think that this definitely undermines the student vote because considering if the litigations go through neither of the top two parties will actually have control,” Aronson said. “I do think that’s telling.”
LSA freshman Kate Stankey expressed disappointment in the litigation and said CSG was not maintaining a real democracy. She also called the process for enforcing election code violations as “flawed.”
“I don’t think it typically follows the democratic government that the CSG should,” she said.
Stankey also expressed discontent with parties’ campaigning in the weeks leading up to the election, adding that it may have dissuaded students from caring about the election.
“I don’t think many people were very interested in the election, especially when they were campaigning and they were bothering a lot of students,” Stankey said. “I think that made the student body pretty upset.”
Stankey said the individual candidates also deterred interest. She cited The Team’s vice presidential candidate, LSA sophomore Matt Fidel, a current CSG representative, due to his attendance at the Sigma Alpha Mu ski trip.
LSA junior Evan Gerstein said he did not know either major party’s platform and only voted for people whom he knew personally. He said campaigning on either side had no effect on his vote, which made him question the necessity of the efforts.
“The presidential party vote was separated by five, so clearly my vote actually had an impact, because I voted for an actual party,” Gerstein said. “At the same time, it didn’t really matter as much, because I didn’t know any of the candidates because they didn’t campaign well. Sure I saw Make Michigan, actually I saw more of The Team, with their chalking and everything, but I don’t know the platform; I don’t know the president; I only knew my friends who were representatives and I voted for them.”
Aronson took the opposite approach, noting that while students care about the selection of the CSG president, she doubts how much party platforms really matter.
“To an extent, I think people do care who the face of student government is,” Aronson said.
The last time a party secured executive seats through litigation after losing the initial election was in 2013. In that election, youMICH’s Michael Proppe, a current Business graduate student, and Bobby Dishell, current CSG president and Public Policy senior, assumed office without having won the popular vote.
Dishell went on to become CSG president in 2014 on the Make Michigan ticket. If Make Michigan were to officially secure the seats upon conclusion of litigation, this would be the second consecutive year that the incumbent party holds office.
Law student John Lin, CSG student general counsel and a member of the current Make Michigan executive team, said the continuation of the party’s power results from the lack of a large priority shift for the student population in the last few years.
“It means there’s a consistent philosophy,” Lin said. “The Make Michigan/youMICH strand is very focused on certain issues, working on small tangible goals, whereas the other party, The Team, and FORUM before that, were very idealistic, kind of going for big moves: more culture, more social justice.”
He noted that if Make Michigan does maintain its win, there will not be a large shift in the approach to campus issues and resulting policies created by student government.
“I think that you’re not going to see much of a change in terms of culture and student government priorities,” Lin said. “Personally, I think that’s a good thing, other people might not.”