Infractions in the SGA elections set stage for runoff

Anju George

As noon struck last Friday, the Student Government Association candidates anxiously awaited the results of the 2006 elections.

The results for the SGA senatorial race were announced, but a final resolution in the presidential race will still have to wait.

In total, 2,224 Villanovans voted in the election, with the top vote-getters being the John Von Euw/David Pedra ticket (832) and the Ryan Bendinelli/Diane Ditzel ticket (674). Without a majority vote, however, neither candidate could claim the position.

The result is a run-off election, which begins at noon today and ends at noon tomorrow.

However, a major factor that played out in last Friday’s election was the Election Commission’s announcement that major infractions had been committed by the Bendinelli/Ditzel campaign.

The night before the election, it was discovered that Bendinelli and Ditzel had gone through all of the South campus dorms, as well as the Quad and West campus dorms, slipping papers that presented their platform into residents’ dorm rooms, according to Tom Mogan, director of student development.

Though the campaigning contracts allow door-to-door campaigning between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m., they interpreted “door-to-door” campaigning as simply meeting and greeting with students.

When students approached them after campaigning hours, Bendinelli and Ditzel were required to tell students that they could not discuss their platform due to campaigning restrictions.

The next day, however, Bendinelli and Ditzel were informed by the Election Commission that slipping papers with their platform under residents’ doors and doing so after 10 p.m. were two major infractions of the campaigning contract.

According to the Villanova University Student Government Association Election Laws, candidates can only place flyers in the “door jam,” defined as “the slit between the door and doorframe” because slipping papers under the door is a safety hazard.

The third major infraction of the Bendinelli/Ditzel campaign was writing on white boards and chalkboards of academic buildings.

The two candidates claimed to have only read certain parts of the document and since then have apologized to the Commission.

“We were not trying to be malicious; we just misinterpreted the rules,” Bendinelli said. “We care about our campus, and we just want to make it better.”

They said they had done the “meet-and-greet” since the beginning of the campaign in late March, going to different organizations and dorms, but still had not talked to as many students as they would have liked.

However, the result of their actions was an overall vote-decrease penalty of 10 percent, dropping the number of votes from 674 to 607.

Other rumors have circulated throughout campus that the Von Euw/Pedra ticket committed a budget infraction by exceeding their $200 budget.

“Supporters of our campaign went out and made ‘Vote for John and Dave’ shirts, but we didn’t know it was going to be part of our budget,” Pedra said. “When the commission hit us with the infraction, we appealed it, and eventually the decision was overturned. In the end, they just added the shirts to our budget.”

For this past week of campaigning for the run-off election, the budget was increased by $25 for both sides. However, Pedra said that their ticket would simply use the $25 to pay for the t-shirts.

The latest SGA scandal is not a new one, however. In previous elections, similar infractions were committed.

Such prior infractions include using Facebook to inform students university-wide about a candidate’s platform, when the “Election Laws” state that no one is allowed to send out mass e-mails or mass messages to strangers.

“These kinds of rules were created to prevent chaos during the campaigning,” Matt Harris, SGA Election Commission Chairperson said. “Rules such as this and not permitting candidates to write all over whiteboards are intended to protect students from being blasted with too many campaign materials.”

Other infractions past SGA candidates have committed are using chalk to write campaign messages on the sidewalks, posting and/or distributing campaign materials in dining halls (excluding Bartley Café), posting campaigning messages on poles, building walls and walkways, and exceeding the 250 posters and $200 budget allotted for each presidential ticket.