SGA Election Commission and Student Judicial Board mismanage election

We recommend you read the first part of the investigation before this story:

“How the SGA Election Commission and Student Judicial Board decided to disqualify presidential candidate Nigel Walton: Friends on the reviewal board and demands for campaign messages”

A week ago, Georgia State’s Student Government Association reported an election disqualification, but what happens when another candidate is accused of the same infraction?

April 3, two complaints filed by SGA President-elect Kaelen Thomas against SGA presidential candidate Nigel Walton — both resulted in Walton’s disqualification from the run-off election. 

According to the SGA complaint journal, Walton committed two class A violations:  bribery and falsifying campaign documents. The Election Commission made the decision to disqualify Walton for each violation separately.

April 6, The Signal released an investigation into Walton’s disqualification. The Election Commission demanded entry into Walton’s campaign GroupMe to prove he didn’t divulge the names of all his campaign members and the Student Judicial Board denied Walton’s appeal on the bribery the same day he filed it without speaking to him.

The SJB violated Article 7 Section 4(A)(2) of the SJB Bylaws that state, “Justices are responsible for hearing the facts of the cases and listening to both sides carefully, so that they may understand the situation.”

In an interview with The Signal, when Walton was asked if he heard from the SJB, he replied, “I have not.”

That same day, April 3, two complaints were also filed against Thomas, exactly 1 hour after Walton’s disqualification.

The first complaint against Thomas was filed by Tyshawn Tucker. Thomas was accused of campaigning while suspended due to a class B violation.

According to the SGA complaint journal, Thomas was charged with a class B violation as a result of committing two class C violations.

The Election Commission prohibited Thomas from campaigning for 92 hours even during the appeal process. The next day, the commission told Thomas he was free to campaign during the appeal process.

After submitting the violation as an appeal to the SJB, they found Thomas responsible for the class C violation but pointed out that the Election Commission made an error in giving him the class B violation.

According to the SGA Election Code, “Three class C violations shall constitute a class B violation and are then subject to class B penalties.”

The SJB reported that Thomas only deserved a 48-hour suspension rather than the given 92 hours.

SGA Advisor Boyd Beckwith asked the commission “whether both class C offenses were to still stand since the SJB accepted both class C violations as valid.” 

The Election Commission realized that Thomas only served one 48-hour suspension out of his two class C violations before they gave him the green light to continue campaigning — when he should have served a second 48-hour ban on campaigning. 

Due to the Election Commission’s decision to allow Thomas to continue campaigning after only one suspension, they found him not responsible for this complaint because Thomas was under the impression that he was clear to do so. 

Therefore Thomas suffered no penalties because of an error by the Election Commission.

The second complaint was submitted by Makeeda Winkle, a Georgia State student.

Winkle reported that “Thomas neglected to inform the board of all his campaign members, including having his link sent to multiple group chats among Georgia State students.”

A lack of notification of campaign members was the same violation Walton was disqualified for.

“Tyshawn and Makeeda [are being contacted] for further information and the election commission is investigating the matters,” SGA Atlanta Advisor Gail Sutton said on April 6.

According to the complaint journal, Chief Election Commissioner Cassie Turner responded to the complaint on April 6 through the Panther Involvement Network where it was submitted. This response reportedly notifies the complainant’s student email, according to Speaker Pro Tempore and Vice-Chair of Marketing Terry Fye.

“Cassie contacted her via her student email as well as submitting a comment on the election complaint asking for more evidence. That comment normally sends an update … so she should have been able to see it,” Fye said.

However, in an interview with The Signal, Winkle said that she was not contacted by the Election Commission. 

It was then proven in an email shared with The Signal by the Election Commission that they mistakenly emailed Winkle’s Georgia State work email rather than her student email.

“I see that now … But still, that shows we contacted her on both ends,” Fye said.

Due to this miscommunication, “The Election Commission has determined through this investigation to rule this complaint as inconclusive due to lack of evidence and clarity from the [complainant],” the complaint journal states.

According to Fye, if they did receive the evidence from Winkle in time that showed Thomas did in fact lie about his campaign members, Thomas would’ve been given the same treatment as Walton.

Thomas would’ve received a class A violation and would’ve been disqualified from the race. 

According to Article 12 Section 3B of the SGA Election Code, “In the case of disqualification or failure to accept a position by the elected candidate any time prior to taking office, the candidate with the next highest number of votes will be declared as the elected officer.”

If Walton and Thomas were both disqualified, Nahom Taye would have become the SGA president-elect, according to Fye.

Thomas won’t have to appeal the second class C violation to the SJB because he didn’t receive any sanctions based on the Election Commission’s decisions. 

However, in Walton’s cases, the SJB and the Election Commission violated the SGA Bylaws when they allowed the Atlanta campus SJB to decide on the appeal.

According to the SGA Bylaws, “Appeals to Election Commission decisions shall be made to the Student Judicial Board on each campus for campus-specific elections, and the SJB on the campus of the Chief Election Commissioner for the president’s seat.”

Chief Election Commissioner Cassie Turner is a student on the Georgia State Newton campus. Therefore, the Perimeter SJB has jurisdiction over all appeals made by the SGA presidential candidates during this election.

As a result of this investigation, The Signal finds that the Election Commission made errors to Thomas’ advantage and the SJB made errors to Walton’s disadvantage. 

However, the SJB’s violation of the bylaws extends even further, since all appeals have taken place under this violated standard — throughout the election.

Despite all of this, the Election Commission has confirmed that the race is now over and Kaelen Thomas is the president-elect for the 91st administration. 

Editor’s Note: Ada Wood, editor-in-chief of The Signal, contributed to this story.