[UPDATE] SG candidates appeal after Facebook photo leads to ballot removal

A screenshot of the Facebook image in question, uploaded five days before the official start of campaigning. (Screenshot)
A screenshot of the Facebook image in question, uploaded five days before the official start of campaigning. (Screenshot)

UPDATE: Tuesday, March 27, 2:48 p.m. The EDC reaches vote on appeal.

Student Government’s Election and Disputes Commission decided Thursday to remove Michael Jordan and Donald Garrett’s ticket from the student body president and vice president ballot after determining they violated the election code by campaigning too early.

Jordan and Garrett, both former senators who have recently brought forth questions on whether SG operates within established legal bounds, have filed an appeal with the EDC to reverse the decision. Though off the ballot, they are allowed to continue campaigning until the appeal process has been carried out next week, according to David Bier, chairman of the EDC.

SG Senator Nicholas Guerin filed the original grievance with the EDC Tuesday that included a screenshot of an image with “M” and “D” posted on Facebook with a timestamp of March 14, 2012, a date prior to the race’s campaigning period that officially began at 12:01 a.m. on March 19. Jordan and Garrett denied to the EDC that the image was tied to their campaigning, and instead, that it was an “inside joke.” Jordan additionally told Connect2Mason he saw other reasoning for the steps taken to disqualify their ticket.

“It’s fully our position that this didn’t come about because of anything that was in their [grievance],” said Jordan in a phone interview Friday. “We believe that they’re biased.”

SG Senator Guerin did not respond by the time of publication to Connect2Mason inquiries for comment.

Jordan and Garrett have filed an appeal to the EDC to reverse their decision, but a meeting is not scheduled until Monday. If the EDC does not reverse, a second appeal is possible, one that involves three administrators from Student Involvement, the umbrella under which SG falls. This review board can uphold the EDC’s decision to remove the ticket, or it may return suggestions to the EDC for review, according to Bier. The administrators do not have the authority to change any EDC decision, he said.

Jordan and Garrett plan to campaign throughout the length of the appeal process, in accordance to the election code.

According to the EDC’s document on the decision, the two former student senators claimed “several incongruent answers” for the reason that the Facebook image tagged the M as ‘Michael Jordan’  and ‘D’ as ‘Donald Garrrett.’ Jordan told the EDC it was tagged to be used as a profile picture, according to the decision, and Garrett said the image – which includes a peach – was made to liken Jordan’s alleged mistreatment during last fall’s appointment process to Garrett’s recent resignation following the start of a process to impeach him.

If read phonetically, Garrett said in a document to the EDC, the Facebook image would read “emm-peach-dee,” or “Impeach D,” which would stand for “Impeach Donald.” Garrett goes on to say in the document that the photograph in the document is “making fun of Student Senate’s irrational decision to impeach Garrett.” The referenced impeachment never reached completion because of Garrett’s resignation before its conclusion.

The EDC determined that, in addition to the image’s upload timing and tagging, the color, font and feel resembled current campaign materials, also distributed via Facebook.

“The fact that the petitioner and several of the petitioner’s friends and Ms. Davis all interpreted the picture as being campaign related, in addition to the [tagging, color, font, and feel and timing], leads the EDC to hold that the primary purpose of the picture was to increase the likelihood of the respondent’s success in the upcoming election,” stated the EDC’s decision.

The vote on the matter was five guilty, two not guilty and one abstention.

Read the EDC's decision.

Jordan and Garrett’s removal from the ballot and their disqualification from the rest of the spring 2012 general election leaves two tickets for SBP and VP on the official ballot: Alex Williams and Jordan Foster, and Liam Hennelley and Mohamed Ahmed. Write-in candidates can also win, though this year they must face new rules for eligibility. As of the time of publication, only one additional ticket was eligible for a write-in vote. Students Gabriel Lavine and Ellie Shahin filed Tuesday and are now campaigning.

Both Jordan and Garrett have been at the center of a series of disagreements and lawsuits this year about Student Government actions and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, a series of regulations about open government that applies to public state universities and public bodies within them. In May 2007, Mason’s SG began making changes to the way it conducted itself in order to abide by FOIA laws after editors for the student newspaper Broadside contacted a state FOI compliance office which determined the SG was a public body and that students broke several open-meeting rules. 

Jordan and Garrett’s ticket slogan is “#ChangeGMU.”

A debate for those running for student body president and vice president is scheduled for March 28.


UPDATE: Tuesday, March 27, 2:48 p.m.

The EDC released it's verdict on the appeal Tuesday, upholding their decision to remove Jordan and Garrett from the ballot for violating established campaign practices.

According to the EDC document detailing their conclusion, the appeal was struck down on Monday with a unanimous vote of 5-0-1 to uphold the prior decision.

Neither Jordan nor Garrett could be reached for comment at the time of this posting.

C2M will continue to follow this story.

Read the EDC's decision on the appeal here.

UPDATE: Tuesday, March 27, 3:19 p.m.

In an email to C2M, Michael Jordan said that since hearing the EDC's verdict, he and Garrett have filed an administrative appeal and will await that decision.



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