MSA hopeful left off ballot

Presidential hopeful Mike Griffin filed a complaint after being ruled ineligible.

Justin Horwath

The All Campus Elections Commission stood behind its decision Friday to not allow political science junior Mike Griffin’s name on the ballot for upcoming Minnesota Student Association elections because he didn’t have enough signatures by filing time.

But Griffin told the audience the commission informed him earlier that morning he would be allowed to participate in the debate because the decision on his candidacy eligibility was still pending.

Under MSA guidelines, to be on the ballot candidates must have 450 legible undergraduate signatures with identification numbers. Griffin said that by filing time on March 23, he turned in “over 500 signatures.” However, he said the commission informed him via e-mail on Tuesday that around 80 of the signatures were illegible.

“They threw out an obscene amount,” he said. “You just give me one extra hour and I’ll get those signatures.”

The commission’s adviser Ed Kim said Griffin was allowed to debate because the issue was not yet resolved. Griffin’s running mate, food science junior Vince Patti, wasn’t allowed to participate in the vice-presidential debate Thursday.

Griffin said he and Patti filed a complaint about the decision Thursday. Kim said the complaint would be processed this week, but couldn’t say when a decision would be made and wouldn’t go into the details of the conflict.

“The decision was made solely on the facts, and the facts are that a candidate made a filing that was ineligible,” Kim said. “My obligation to maintain the process is to not talk about what’s happening.”

Kim added that the commission is encouraging Griffin to continue his campaign as a write-in candidate.

“There’s nothing to say that he lost,” he said.

Augmenting the controversy, Griffin said there is a conflict of interest propelling the commission’s decision. He said current MSA president Max Page played a role in his ineligibility.

Griffin contends that as vice-presidential candidate Ross Skattum’s roommate, Page could have been involved in taking him off the ballot.

“There are going to be a lot of legal questions asked,” Griffin said.

Skattum, an anthropology junior, said he’s not sure what role Page played in the decision.

“As far as him not being on the ballot, if he didn’t meet the requirements I’m not sure what you can do,” he said. “Basically it boils down to I respect the ACEC process.”

Page confirmed he was roommates with Skattum, but said that had nothing to do with the commission’s decision.

“It has nothing to do with Ross,” Page said. “I don’t understand because I don’t know what conflict is arising. ACEC is making the decision, not MSA.”

Page said MSA appoints a selector, who appoints commission members. The members, who must first apply for the position, are then approved by MSA and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.

All four students who applied for the position were chosen this year.

“I don’t know anyone on the committee,” Page said.

Skattum’s running mate Emma Olson, a political science and business sophomore, said she doesn’t see a conflict of interest in the commission’s decision, but understands both sides of the debate.

“I really think Ed is doing a good job, but I also think the case needs to be taken into account,” she said.

 The controversy comes amid growing student apathy plaguing MSA’s elections. Last year 2,841 students voted, compared to 3,839 in 2005. Kim told The Minnesota Daily in a February article that part of the reason for low voter turnout is a lack of candidates.

In Coffman Union’s Mississippi Room, around 35 students filled most of the seats for the 4 p.m. debate. Kim said last year’s debate drew under a dozen students.

During the debate, candidates, who included Spanish and linguistics junior Nathan Olson, Griffin and Emma Olson, focused on the high cost of book prices, student discontent with Operation Nightcap and creating a more effective student government.

During a recess at the debate, political science junior Muneer Karcher-Ramos said the commission should have handled the situation better.

“There should be more access (to the process),” he said.

In his closing remarks, Griffin took the microphone and called for students to open the doors of the Mississippi Room so the commission could hear his supporters, as several students stood up and loudly cheered.

Kim said the doors were to remain closed, and the students sat back down.

Elections will be held April 16 through 18.

-Elizabeth Cook contributed to this report.