By Clara Longo de Freitas and Angela Roberts
Almost 24 hours after elections for the University of Maryland’s SGA closed on Friday, the body’s elections commission announced it would be delaying the release of results — suspending a requirement that it share vote tallies within a day of confirming them.
According to the body’s election rules, the commission must publicly announce election results within 24 hours of confirming them. The election commission met virtually to verify the final tally of votes at 4:05 p.m. on Friday, according to the statement, and voted to withhold the results due to pending governance board appeals concerning one party’s campaign violations.
But after the commission posted a “final violations update” on Saturday morning, it received multiple appeals upon posting the final financial reports for the two parties and independent candidates running in the 2020 elections, according to the statement, with “at least one” related to these reports.
The election commission is responsible for “ensuring appeals and claims do not become moot and that recourse exists for every successful appeal,” even if that means altering election rules or the calendar, the rules say.
“We’ve avoided doing that full cycle to the best of our ability,” said head election commissioner Dan Laffin, “but when we wake up to a new claim that we seem to think is serious enough for us to evaluate it, we can’t turn around and release results, knowing that this violation is still needed to process.”
Shortly after releasing the statement, the commission released an additional update on campaign violations, which included a 50 point violation passed down to Forward Maryland for “omission from financial report.”
This violation was based on the commission’s assertion that the purchase of markers and other writing utensils was missing from the party’s financial report, Forward Maryland chair Elena LeVan said.
On Wednesday, the party posted a collection of photos on Instagram of candidates and other Forward Maryland supporters holding up paper signs, urging students to vote for the party.
LeVan said Forward Maryland is critical of the commission’s decision to delay the release of the results.
“We are disappointed to hear that the elections commission is delaying these results, especially during a time when some many students are experiencing undue stress as a result of COVID-19,” she said.
Dan Alpert, the ticket’s presidential candidate, said Forward Maryland had not appealed the financial reports. He added that the commission did not contact Forward Maryland prior to releasing the statement.
However, Laffin said it wouldn’t have been fair to the candidates or to the tickets if they had been given a say in the decision of postponing the release of election results. Instead, the commission reached out to party chairs after releasing the statement.
“We have to remain impartial,” Laffin said.
Laffin said he could not comment on other appeals, since they had not been ruled as violations.
When a party accrues 100 points in rule violations, it is disqualified, according to election rules. Should a ticket be disqualified and one of its candidates win the most votes in an election, the candidate that came in second place would be elected, Laffin said.
According to the financial reports released Saturday morning, Forward Maryland had reported a total of $44.99 in expenses, which included the purchase of a website, web service subscription and Facebook advertising.
ImpactUMD, the competing party, reported $65.99 in expenses, which included the purchase of a website and Facebook advertising. Eleanor McGuire, running as an independent in the race, reported $19.95 in expenses, and Kimberly Eade — another independent — did not submit a financial report.
There is a 24-hour window for an appeal, Laffin said. If there are no appeals, the election results will come out tomorrow, but if there is one, the governance board will hear the case, he said.
“We can only take the cases as they come to us, but it’s still possible that even with appeals we might get a result tomorrow,” Laffin said.