Sarah Jama is appealing her presidential disqualification

Amanda Watkins
February 1, 2016
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 4 minutes

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This is an evolving story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

As McMaster lay awake in anticipation following the closing of the polls on Thursday, Jan. 28, it would have sounded absurd to suggest that the most newsworthy item would not be the identity of the winner of the 2016 MSU Presidentials. Yet the announcement on the MSU website released on Friday at 3:45 a.m. was a collection of both the stunning and the improbable.

Jonathon Tonietto, one of the more unorthodox candidates, finishes second.

Mike Gill, arguably one of the frontrunners in this year's race, finishes as an outside third.

The referendum on VP elections at-large fails to pass by a margin of 0.3 percent, or approximately 20 votes.

But by far, the most startling turn of events: the disqualification of Sarah Jama from the Presidential candidacy for what are described as "excessive campaign violations."

Did someone mention that Justin Monaco-Barnes is the new MSU President-Elect?

These unexpected results are perhaps a fitting end to one of the most tense and aggressive campaign periods in recent memory. Anonymous accusations of sexual and physical assault against a candidate surfaced on social media, which prompted both an official response by the Women and Gender Equity Network and a discussion on these accusations during the Student Representative Assembly meeting on Sunday, Jan. 25.

In many ways, these events had a significant impact on the tone of the election, and according to a Facebook post by Sarah Jama, these allegations played a role in Jama's disqualification.

Based on the adjudication from Elections Committee, Jama's campaign committed two severe violations outlined in section 7.9 of the 2016 MSU Presidential Rules. As explained by Chief Returning Officer Priya Gupta, a severe violation is anything that involves "something that might harm the integrity of the election." She also explained that any severe violation is required to involve a discussion on disqualification by Elections Committee.

The first involves an infraction of rule 7.9.1 for exceeding the spending limit of $450 as outlined in rule 6.1, and the second is an infraction of rule 7.9.5, involving the use of material that is considered to be in "bad taste," defined in rule 2.1 as that which "shall include but not be limited to material that is determined by the Returning Officers to be: sexist, racist, heterosexist, homophobic, pornographic, obscene, derogatory or prejudicial to any member of the McMaster community."

The recent Facebook post by Jama on her campaign page confirms that the alleged incident in violation of rule 7.9.5 "Bad Taste" was in part a retweet on Jama's Twitter account of a user that accused one of the candidates of sexual assault.

While many have speculated on the outcome of the election had Jama not been disqualified, the results of the ballots will remain confidential during the appeals period in order to preserve the integrity of decisions made by Elections Committee.

According to Jama, the volunteer responsible as well as another individual involved were removed from her team following the incident. While rule 7.4 states that "candidates are responsible for their campaign and representatives," it later states that "candidates are required to notify the Returning Officers immediately if they believe they could be unfairly penalised for another individual's actions.” In her post, Jama asserts that she removed the tweet within “ten minutes” and that she “talked to the [Chief Returning Officer] right afterwards to make sure [her] response was correct.”

Currently, Jama has announced her intent to appeal the disqualification; her post on her Facebook page has specifically contested the severe violation for exceeding the spending limit, denouncing the violation as untrue. According to Jama, the decision was based on a screenshot of a conversation that indicated she had paid $500 for her website, but Jama has declared she has evidence that proves otherwise.

While many have speculated on the outcome of the election had Jama not been disqualified, the results of the ballots will remain confidential during the appeals period in order to preserve the integrity of decisions made by Elections Committee.

"I cannot reveal that information, only I know that information; even EC doesn't know," said Gupta.

"The reason being is that we do not want to bias EC's decisions, especially since we are in an appeals period. I think knowing that information might bias the people on the committee to one way or another."

Gupta also explained that the minutes for Elections Committee's meeting will be publicly shared as soon as they can be made coherent and presentable by Administrative Assistant Victoria Scott, the transcriber.

"There are seven hours' worth of meeting minutes," explained Gupta. "I'm hoping and aiming for them to be released by Monday or Tuesday."

"I know students are a little agitated and upset that the meeting minutes have not come out, but I just ask them to be patient and to respect the time. It is a human process."

The appeals period will extend until Friday, Feb. 5 and all candidates will have the opportunity to voice any concerns. In the meantime, students will be left to speculate on the results of a remarkably contentious election.

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  • Amanda Watkins

    Amanda is a graduate of McMaster Humanities, majoring in Multimedia and Communication Studies. She started at The Silhouette as a Lifestyle volunteer in her first year and is now Editor-in-Chief. She humbly acknowledges that she started from the bottom and now is here.

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