By Darrell Todd Maurina: CNJ staff writer
In an election marred by confusion, accusations of impropriety and the disqualification of one candidate, a student election board declared Brett Trembly Eastern New Mexico University’s student body president on Monday.
Trembly, a senior from Belen, received 278 votes while the incumbent president, Bob Cornelius, received 217 votes. Fabian Guzman received 159 votes and said he was disqualified because of an e-mail sent on his behalf, even though he did not approve it. Guzman said the elections board didn’t disqualify either of the other two candidates despite multiple complaints filed against both.
Guzman said the elections board voted to disqualify him because the e-mail sent — without his knowledge — was unauthorized campaign material that hadn’t undergone prior review by the elections board.
Neither Board of Elections chairperson Amanda Pritchard nor any other member of the board of elections could be reached for comment or to explain what rule Guzman had violated. ENMU President Steven Gamble said he couldn’t explain what rule Guzman violated and referred inquiries to the vice-president for student affairs, who couldn’t be reached Monday evening.
Officials said last week the election was also marred by the presence of 70 to 80 more ballots in the ballot boxes than there were students recorded as having voted.
In a press release, Pritchard said Monday the board “determined there was no foul play on the part of the poll workers.”
“The vote discrepancy was decided to have been based on a data input error explainable by a misunderstanding of the use of the program,” Pritchard wrote. “The board found this did not have a significant impact on the election.”
According to Pritchard, further information on the complaints received will be given to the Student Senate, which meets at 6:30 tonight in the faculty lounge.
“Complaints were that friends were going up to the voting booth and badgering voters,” Guzman said. “The way the election board made its decision, it was very unfair to me and to Mr. Cornelius. The rules say you cannot campaign within 20 feet of a polling place, but that happened.”
Nancy Verales, student advisor with the Office of Hispanic Affairs, confirmed that Guzman had nothing to do with the e-mail sent by her office to about 1,000 Hispanic students at ENMU.
“I never expected for him to get disqualified because of that e-mail,” Verales said. “Nowhere in that e-mail does it say to vote for Fabian, and what I put there was exactly the same stuff that was in The Chase (ENMU’s student newspaper) two days before.”
Verales said she sends about 20 e-mails per week to Hispanic students regarding jobs, programs, scholarships, and Hispanic role models on campus.
“I send one every single time there is a Hispanic student we can recognize, about 50 per semester,” Verales said. “I don’t think Fabian Guzman should be penalized for any action taken by me or the Office of Hispanic Affairs.”
Cornelius could not be reached for comment, but winning candidate Trembly said he hoped to put the election problems behind him.
“Hopefully next year we can get a system in place to avoid any problems like this, either online or electronic voting,” Trembly said. “I’m hoping students wouldn’t go so far as to hack in or cheat on an election. We will look into the best system possible and hopefully make it less open to fraud.”