Student Government Association rejects four candidate nominations
As University of Massachusetts students vote this week to elect their peers to the Student Government Association, four people will not find their names on the ballot this semester. The nomination forms of four students – Jon Menzin, Sarah Schultz, Andrew Dawson and Brad DeFlumeri – were ultimately rejected by the SGA election commission. Each can still reach office through a write-in campaign.
According to SGA guidelines, a candidate’s nomination can be rejected by the election commission for two reasons: If more than half of the signatures and student information has errors or omissions within, or if the nomination is suspected of being forged. While the nominations of Menzin, Schultz and Dawson were rejected due to errors and omissions, the only candidate to be rejected due to suspected forgery was DeFlumeri.
The SGA guidelines for reviewing signatures state that “50 percent of a candidate’s required nominations be ‘valid,’” which means that half the form has to be completely filled in. In the cases of Menzin, Schultz and Dawson, their nominations lacked essential information such as phone numbers and addresses, leading to the rejection of their forms.
“All nominations were placed on the table at once, and if two members of the elections commission agreed that the forms were complete, the completed ones went in one pile,” said SGA Chancellor of Elections Chris Faulkner. “We used People Finder on the UMass website to confirm students’ identities. If the student on the nomination could not be found online, we would call the listed number to get confirmation. It would have been logistically impossible to check every student on every candidate’s nomination, but we did everything according to our pre-determined evaluation standards.”
After both members of the SGA election commission reviewing DeFlumeri’s nomination to be a Sylvan senator agreed that the form appeared forged, a larger investigation was opened. According to the SGA election guidelines, “if multiple nominations appear to have the same handwriting, the elections commission reserves the right to investigate the nominations further to confirm or deny their validity.”
“We had to get in contact with a lot of people [on the nomination],” said Faulkner. “Our procedure was that, after calling the listed phone number, we would ask ‘Did you vote for this person?’ If they said ‘yes,’ we would check them off.”
To be nominated as an SGA senator, a candidate needs only 13 signatures. Some 26 of the 30 signatures received on DeFlumeri’s nomination were ultimately deemed suspicious by the election commission due to handwriting similarities, and when a record any of the students’ existence could not be found by calling their numbers or searching for them on People Finder, commission members contacted the Registrar’s office, which confirmed that many of the individuals on the form were not currently enrolled at UMass. The elections commission at the same time obtained floor plans for the Sylvan Residence Halls, which showed that two of the addresses on DeFlumeri’s nomination did not exist. Another signature listed the Brown Residence Hall cluster office as an address.
The Massachusetts Daily Collegian was able to obtain a copy of DeFlumeri’s nomination, and an independent analysis of the phone numbers listed with the signatures found 19 numbers that are out of service and do not exist, as well as five numbers that belong to people who were not the individual who signed the nomination (including one number belonging to a Toronto resident). A telephone hotline for Children’s Hospital also found its way on to the nomination form.
UMass student Nicole Sobel’s signature was one of the many on DeFlumeri’s nomination, but when the Collegian contacted the number listed next to the signature, it was out of service. After we reached her for comment, Sobel confirmed that she has never met DeFlumeri in person, and did not nominate him to the SGA. She also confirmed that she lives in an apartment off of campus and does not live in 206F McNamara as the nomination contends.
“I authorized somebody to collect signatures on my behalf,” said DeFlumeri in an interview. When asked about the identity of the individual who collected the signatures, DeFlumeri responded that he would “not disclose that information.”
“I did not check the names [before turning them in to the SGA],” continued DeFlumeri. “I take the blame for not going around myself, but I didn’t have the time.”
According to DeFlumeri, the rejection of his nomination signatures is due to ideological and personal differences between himself and the SGA. “I think the fact that I’ve criticized the SGA harshly in my newspaper The Minuteman has contributed to their response to my nomination,” said DeFlumeri. “If there was no person on the elections committee with an agenda, I would be surprised. I don’t understand why someone would even run for the SGA if they don’t have an agenda.”
Faulkner maintains, however, that the SGA elections commission is only doing its job by policing forgery in its nomination process.
“[DeFlumeri] has been trying to make the argument that we have selected him for special investigation due to his past history with our organization,” said Faulkner. “He has also tried to connect our denial of his nomination to his work at The Minuteman [newspaper]. This is not true in the least. We followed guidelines that have existed for a while now.”
Nick Bush can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.