Syedah elected MSA Prez

Despite confusion over last-minute campaigning, Abeer Syedah won the election.

by Raj Chaduvula

Abeer Syedah has been elected president of the Minnesota Student Association, defeating Cameron Holl in last week’s contentious election.
The All-Campus Elections Commission announced Sunday evening that Syedah and vice president candidate Samantha Marlow won the contest with a voter turnout of about one in five students.
The results came after weekend disputes between ACEC and candidates about alleged rule-breaking and docked percentage points.
The confusion started last Wednesday when Syedah and Marlow’s team conducted door-to-door campaigning at Centennial and Middlebrook residence halls.
“[ACEC] contacted us and said we were in violation of rules … and we immediately suspended the [door-knocking],” Syedah said.
The 2016 ACEC rules permit campaigning on election days, with certain regulations. ACEC’s definition of campaigning explicitly includes solicitation in residence halls. And according to 2016 ACEC stipulations, campaigning is allowed until the time voting closes on the last day of elections.
However, door-to-door campaigning in residential communities is only permissible until the day prior to the actual election, according to a University Housing and Residential Life policy, specifically regarding ACEC elections.
Syedah’s ticket campaigned in residence halls while voting polls were open.
The ACEC did not respond to multiple interview requests by the Minnesota Daily.
Syedah said her campaign received permission from the residence halls to knock on doors.
By Friday, both candidates received an email from ACEC regarding the election results. The email noted Syedah’s campaign initially garnered 66 percent of the vote, but the commission docked about 22 percent due to “concerns [about] prohibited door-to-door campaigning.” 
ACEC told Syedah it calculated the docked percentage based on an algorithm that took into account how many students in the residence halls could have been swayed by their campaigning.
“We didn’t get a trial [and weren’t] informed about the basis for how much would be docked,” Syedah said.
However, the ACEC did not ultimately dock any points from either candidate for rule violations in its final tally of votes. Instead, ACEC confirmed, both campaigns would be fined for separate instances of rule-breaking. 
Still, the two tickets differ in their accounts of the extent of Wednesday’s door-knocking. While Syedah said her campaign canvassed only two halls, Holl said his team came across a volunteer sheet from Syedah’s coordinating door-knocking at four different halls.
Holl said his team notified ACEC of what he said is a potential basis for disqualification.
“The entire integrity of the election is at stake,” Holl said. “The door-knocking is, in my mind, such a significant rule break that there should probably be a disqualification. And there’s potential that the entire election might get invalidated.”
After the penalty, Syedah and Marlow still received nearly 10 percent more votes than Holl and Khurana in the initial results.