Class of 2015 senator Zach Ogle will be allowed to run against USG president Shawon Jackson ’15 in the upcoming presidential elections, the USG Senate decided in a vote on Sunday night.
The vote came after Ogle appealed a decision made by chief elections manager Rachel Nam ’15 last Tuesday, in whichshe disqualified himfrom the campaign for failing to submit one Google Doc among several pieces of required paperwork on time.
With this decision, current USG president Jackson will no longer be running unopposed for reelection.
Ogle handed in his candidate statement and signed petition at 4:55 p.m. and 4:58 p.m., respectively, according to the appeal. The third document, a Google Doc questionnaire, was submitted at 5:02:42 p.m., shortly after Nam asked Ogle at 5 p.m. whether he had filled it out.
Nam argued that the Elections Handbook clearly states that the deadline for submission is 5 p.m., adding that this rule was emphasized at elections open houses and in the emails about elections.
“I did not say anything beforehand about giving a buffer time to the candidates,” Nam said as part of her argument during the appeal, “so it seemed to me that allowing two minutes and 42 seconds late would be drawing an arbitrary line.”
Ogle argued that he should be allowed to run because the majority of his paperwork was in on time and the only documentation he missed required information that he had already provided in other paperwork.
He added that the rules in the Elections Handbook were made in order to prevent candidates from previewing the other candidates before deciding whether or not to run. Since he had already proven his intention to run by submitting the other paperwork, he said, he was not trying to gain an unfair advantage.
“I think, most importantly, the election manager’s decision created an uncontested race for president,” Ogle said. “In USG, we’ve talked a lot about trying to get fewer uncontested races and having more discussion in the democratic process, so I think it’s an improvement to not have an uncontested race, especially for one of the top positions of president.”
The Senate found that Ogle’s late submission did not give him an unfair advantage since he had already declared his candidacy before the deadline.
“The Senate did not set a precedent of allowing late registration or disregard of the rules,” vice president Carmina Mancenon ’14 said in a statement on behalf of the Senate. “Rather, the Senate determined that the intent of the rule was to prevent a single candidate from previewing the field of candidates in the process of making his or her decision to run for a particular position.”
Mancenon added that the decision shows the “importance of the appeals process in ensuring a fair election that furthers democracy.”
The appeal was sponsored by six members of the senate: U-Councilor Azza Cohen ’16, Class of 2016 senator Ella Cheng, Class of 2014 senator John McNamara, Campus and Community Affairs chair Trap Yates ’14, Undergraduate Student Life Committee chair Greg Smith ’15 and U-Councilor Yifan Zhu ’15.
Cheng is also a staff news writer for The Daily Princetonian. Yates is a former associate editor for Street.
The appeal, which required a two-thirds majority, passed by a vote of 19 in favor, two opposed and zero abstaining.
Members of the Senate discussed the decision for close to an hour-and-a-half. Jackson, Ogle, Nam and all non-voting members were barred from the “super executive session” for the discussion.
“I’m glad the Senate upheld my status as a candidate, and I look forward to the productive discussions and exchange of ideas that will happen over the course of the campaign,” Ogle said. “I’m excited to campaign, and I’m excited for students to get to hear my ideas and what I think.”
Though Ogle said it was “unfortunate” that he missed out on some potential campaigning time, he’s still “confident.”
Jackson said he respected the decision of the Senate and said he thought “their logic was sound.”
“I guess, moving forward, instead of focusing on just gathering student ideas and asking them what their concerns are about USG,” Jackson said, “I’ll be doing that in addition to telling them what my specific ideas are going into the year and how I can distinguish myself from the other candidate.”
According to Academics Committee chair Dillon Sharp ’14, the Senate faced a similar decision in the spring of 2011 when a candidate for social chair submitted campaign materials after the deadline.
Before that incident, a committee revised the Elections Handbook to make the submission deadline more explicitly strict, Sharp said.
The candidates will campaign throughout the week before voting starts next Monday. A debate will be held Friday at which they will discuss their platforms.
In addition to the special session devoted to the election decision, the USG Senate discussed its regular business. Student Groups Recognition Committee chair Benny Wagstaff ’14 presented three new student groups to the Senate. The Princeton University American Sign Language Club will give students the opportunity to appreciate and understand deaf culture and ASL, 80,000 Hours will give students resources to find careers with the greatest social impact and the Princeton Songwriters Society will let students come together to write and perform their own songs.
Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article misstated when the electoral reform to make submission deadlines more explicitly strict was passed. The reform was passed in early April 2011, prior to the incident when a social chair candidate submitted materials late. The 'Prince' regrets the error.