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University of Maryland Diamondback

Daly takes SGA presidency
By Sam Hedenberg
April 17, 2003

RHA President Tim Daly took the SGA presidency yesterday as his FLASH Party claimed the majority of executive positions, overcoming Change Party candidate and bitter rival Aaron Kraus after three rounds of the new computerized instant runoff system - the closest race in recent history, officials said.

Several subplots unfolded as Student Government Association officials announced election results yesterday afternoon - one day later than in past years - including Daly's emergence from a crowded five-person race to win the presidency, the christening of SGA's instant runoff system that propelled three vice presidential candidates into office and the parceling of the seven-seat executive board between the parties.

Twenty-two percent of undergraduate students cast online ballots in the two-day election, surpassing last year's 19 percent turnout but falling short of 25 percent voting in 2001.

Daly's party was the campaign's big winner, holding off an upstart run from the Change Party and brushing away the three other parties. FLASH and Pat Wu's TANG Party, which share similar campaign stances, were the most visible throughout the campaign, and many outgoing SGA officials expected the two parties to duke it out for votes. But Wu, the current SGA vice president of student groups, fell to third in the presidential race after a temporary expulsion from the campaign, and Kraus, a relative unknown before the election, emerged in his place.

Kraus was visibly distraught about the results and walked away after the winner was announced. He repeatedly attempted to break free of Eric Swalwell, Kraus' informal adviser and the current vice president of campus affairs, who tried to console him. "You need to grow up," Swalwell told him as Kraus pulled away.

Kraus later wished Daly good luck in his term, but said he was disappointed in the results. "The students elected the worst possible candidate," Kraus said. "He is unpersonable and an ineffective leader."

Daly beat out Kraus by a narrow margin in the third round of instant runoff voting, a process that eliminates the need for costly and time-consuming runoff voting by allowing voters to rank candidates in the order of their preference. The candidates gaining the lowest amount of first-choice votes are eliminated and their second choices are added to the results. The process is repeated until a candidate receives at least 40 percent of the vote.

After removing three candidates from the process, Daly beat Kraus 2,178 to 1,969, which equates to 52.5 percent to Kraus' 47.5 percent of the final vote. Wu placed third overall in the elections with 30.75 percent of the vote in the second round of IRVs.

The raw voting numbers show without IRV, Daly jumped out to an early lead at 1,421 to Kraus' 1,189. Kraus closed the gap as the IRV process kicked in.

Daly said he was excited about the opportunities the position presented and was prepared to "hit the ground running," by attending the SGA meeting last night.

Wu suffered a setback when he was removed from the ballot for organizing a campaign event that served alcohol to minors. Wu was eventually reinstated, but he said the damage had already set in. Wu finished third in the presidential race and his party claimed only one of seven executive seats, with Drew Vetter taking the vice presidency of campus affairs. Wu said the controversy may have affected the party's appeal to swing voters.

"I believe that most people who voted for our party voted for us regardless of [the dismissal]," Wu said. "However, it affected our ability to run an issue-based campaign, which got no attention. I still believe our party had the strongest platform of any party."

Naked Party candidate Nick Gerontianos finished fourth in the presidential race with 846 votes. KEG Party candidate Ricky Gonzalez garnered a paltry 549 votes and was the first candidate removed in the IRV process.

Split in VP races

The winners in both the executive and legislative bodies came from four of the five parties, which is uncharacteristic of an organization usually known for its homogenous party affiliation on the executive board. The FLASH Party won three of the six vice presidencies - Jenny Aiken for student groups, Alden Gross for financial affairs and Mollie Wander for public relations.

Also winning positions were Vetter and Change Party candidates Nakiya Vasi for administrative affairs and Christine Delargy for human relations.

IRV added a new dimension to the voting process. Three vice presidential candidates who won initial elections were defeated as a result of IRV. FLASH Party administrative affairs vice presidential candidate Yoni Warren beat out Vasi by 214 in the initial vote, but was defeated by 23 votes by the final round of IRV.

In the most stunning victory of the day as a result of IRV, Change Party's Delargy overcame an initial deficit of 258 votes - fourth place - to clinch the vice presidency of human relations. Delargy managed to rally in the later rounds of IRV to overcome FLASH candidate Joel Willcher by 51. Vice presidential candidate of campus affairs candidate Will Jones Jr. also initially beat opponent Vetter by four votes but was defeated in IRV by 92 votes.

Both election winners and losers said the hodgepodge of candidates will prove for an interesting year. Some suggested the wide range of personalities would not mesh well.

"We're going to get off to a rocky start," said Vetter, a current SGA legislator. "There are going to be a lot of clashing personalities at first, but once the party lines are gone, it will start to die down."

Other current SGA members said they were concerned with several of the candidates elected, most pointing to the vice president of finance. The only candidate for that position who had any SGA experience was the TANG Party's Ben Shapiro. The SGA's most important responsibility is to allocate more than $1 million in student activity fees to student groups. Shapiro lost the election to Gross by a mere eight votes in the final round of IRV.

"It's going to be a long, hard transition process in finance," current vice president of finance Dave Buckler said.

Good reviews for IRV

Ranker said he was pleased with the new IRV system and was glad it went smoothly. However, he said there were several abnormalities in the voting process.

According to figures released by the election board, the computer program recorded 209 invalid votes for legislative positions. Misvoting came as a result of unknown, uncharacteristic computer glitches in the residential legislator elections.

Ranker said the invalid votes were tallied and compared with the election results. If the margin of victory was smaller than the amount of invalid votes, a runoff was scheduled.

Such was the case in five residential elections: neighboring commuter, Cambridge Community, Graham Cracker, South Hill and outlying commuter.

The supplemental elections will be held April 21 from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. and April 22 at 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the affected communities on the university's Testudo website.

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