UT Student Government is not the only student representative body facing delays in its 2012 presidential and vice presidential elections. As of Wednesday, students at the University of Houston became familiar with a term UT has been acquainted with — disqualification.
Michael McHugh, University of Houston Student Government Association president-elect, and running mate Mohammed Aijaz were disqualified by the UH Election Commission when the commission found members associated with their campaign guilty of voter fraud. According to the UH Election Code, candidates may be held responsible for the activities of their supporters who are in violations of the code.
McHugh and Aijaz were elected in a run-off election on March 7 over opposing candidates Cedric Bandoh and Turner Harris.
Election Commission representatives said a number of students filed complaints with the commission claiming Brandon Balwant and Lazami Ramana, natural sciences and mathematics representative-elects, solicited student voting information under the pretense of filing a petition to change faucets in the M.D. Anderson Library, according to the school’s newspaper The Daily Cougar.
Arsalan Razakazi, UH chief election commission, told The Daily Cougar Balwant and Lazami asked for students first and last names, student ID numbers, birthdays, classifications and the college they were enrolled in. All of this information is required to vote in the election and the McHugh-Aijaz party is the party who benefitted from the fraudulent voting.
UH Student Government Association currently operates under a ticket or party system, in which candidates are allowed to endorse one another and run under a banner or name. UTSG outlawed candidate associations in 2008, defining an association as any official campaign title or name used by a candidate to signify an alliance.
Yesenia Chavez, a senator-elect and member of the McHugh-Aijaz party, said she was shocked when she heard about McHugh and Aijaz’s disqualification and felt it was unfair to disqualify the candidates because of the actions of someone associated with them. She said she felt the decision may have been biased because members of the Election Commision were appointed by the current SGA president and vice president, who support McHugh’s opponents. Chavez said McHugh and Aijaz have appealed the decision to the SGA judiciary branch.
“I’m not saying the guys running the Election Commission aren’t good guys,” Chavez said. “I just don’t think a student should be running the [election]. Some type of bias is always bound to happen.”
In regards to whether McHugh could possibly sue the school if he is not reinstated, Chavez said she felt he would because of the hard work he put into the campaign.