Update Monday: We hit the streets to ask UCF students if they felt SGA did a good job advertising the election and how to run. Hear for yourself how how sad so many students think the state of these elections are:
While Speaker of the Senate Drew Pope was planning secret meetings for members of his senate ticket, his fraternity brother, Shane Meckler, apparently failed to meet his duties as the Chief Election Commissioner by not properly advertising the election to students outside of SGA who may have wanted to get involved.
On the night of September 6, Drew Pope held a secret meeting at Brooklyn Pizza on campus, where he and his fellow senators planned out their election strategy the night before applications for candidacy were available to the average student, video evidence obtained by KnightNews.com shows.
Click Below for Slideshow of pictures from the questionable secret meeting:
Once those in attendance at this meeting saw KnightNews.com reporters enter the room, some shouted profanity and they stormed out and fled the scene as Pope yelled, “Come on, let’s get out of here!”
We wanted to ask: If they weren’t doing anything wrong, why did they storm out so violently? But Pope did not immediately respond to a phone call Sunday night for comment. Earlier, KnightNews.com reported Attorney General Nick Gurney released this opinion warning candidates not to actively campaign before petitions were turned in. Pope’s meeting happened the day before petitions were even available. We left a message for Pope and will post his reply if he provides a statement.
This year, UCF has the largest population it’s ever had, and there are more open positions available in SGA than in years past, yet this is the most uncontested race we’ve ever seen. Out of 56 open senate positions, only seven have to campaign for their seats against another opponent on the ballot, while the rest are either vacant or unopposed.
SGA statutes require that the Chief Elections Commissioner, Shane Meckler, place advertisements in “all campus media” one week before petitions for candidacy are made available. But KnightNews.com never received any such advertisement or request to publicize petitions during that time.
When we called Meckler on Sunday for comment, he said he recalled placing one advertisement in the Central Florida Future newspaper sometime in early September, but did not recall the date. Regardless, any advertisement would have had to be placed in all campus media by at least September 1 in order to fulfill this requirement, suggesting statutes were likely broken and the election was not fairly open to all students.
When we asked him how he defines ”campus media,” Meckler said, “I would have to talk to other people first.” We asked who he’d have to talk to since he is supposed to be the authority on the matter, and he said, “No official decision was made that anyone was campus media…my complete interpretation has not been made or not.” The lack of a official decision on something that Meckler was required to decide on weeks ago still hasn’t been made, even as the election starts Monday — and it’s already too late to advertise the availability of petitions.
Why has SGA decided to keep this election so quiet? We called, left a message and e-mailed SGA’s Chief Information Officer, Shane Chism, asking why the SGA website has not made the information regarding the elections the top story, in a way that an average person would see or click on it. Chism did not immediately respond, but we will post his reply if he comments.
As of Sunday night, the election was not listed under the “Upcoming Events” section of the SGA website, and we couldn’t find anything about elections mentioned on SGA’s official twitter account.
While critics may consider SGA trivial and an outright joke, others have expressed deep concerns to KnightNews.com over this behavior because this election decides who fills the senate seats that oversee the spending of $15 million, and there is almost zero competition.
In a statement on Thursday night to Senate, Hannah Fraher, an election commissioner, stated that about a dozen students have signed up to be write-in candidates since the sign-up date ended, which means they missed the deadline to have their names on the ballot, which significantly reduces their chances of winning.
KnightNews.com has also received complaints from write-in candidates who said they had to sign up to run as write-ins because they missed the poorly advertised deadline to do so.
The elections commission is made up of nine students, appointed by SGA President Mike Kilbride, who are all paid salaries out of students’ tuition dollars to make sure a proper election is held and advertised. This means there are more paid individuals overseeing an election than the number of senatorial candidates actually competing against another person listed on the ballot for their seat.
KnightNews.com will continue following this developing story, and will let you know if a decision is made to change the date of the election to allow the students running as write-in candidates against Speaker Pope’s ticket to have their name placed on the ballot.
We’ll let you know if anyone in SGA decides to conduct an investigation or file a complaint based on what KnightNews.com uncovered, or if someone files an injunction with Orange County’s Ninth Judicial Circuit to stop this election until everyone who wanted to run can get on the ballot.
Check back for updates.