The 2012 Student Council Election Commission discovered late last Friday evening that eight of the 13 candidates running for Student Council President submitted duplicate and fake signatures as a part of the 500 student signatures required to begin campaigning.
After receiving the signature sheets on Friday afternoon, Paul Cernota, Instructor in Chemistry and Faculty Advisor to Student Council, scanned the petitions and weeded out blatantly fake names and duplicate signatures. Unless a signature was obviously faked, such as “Pokémon” or “Tom Cruise,” it was counted toward the total, according to Cernota.
According to Uday Singh ’12, Student Council President, the Election Commission asked seven candidates to obtain 25 more signatures after duplicate or fake signatures were found. One candidate was asked to obtain an additional 50.
These eight candidates were not permitted to begin campaigning last Friday. The Election Commission allowed them to continue in the race after each candidate collected additional signatures.
Paul Cernota, Faculty Advisor to Student Council, said, “We figured that there would probably be some people who had forgotten that they had signed [for a candidate] the first time around and would sign a second [time], so we figured  was a good number. Even if there were duplicate signatures that were totally by accident, everyone would have at least gotten to 500. And we asked everyone for the same thing, so we thought that was relatively fair.”
One candidate had to collect 50 more signatures because the Election Commission could only confirm around 450 signatures, due to the confusing layout of his signature sheets.
The commission contacted the eight candidates by e-mail last Friday night, requesting the additional signatures.
In an e-mail to The Phillipian, Cernota wrote, “We did not put a specific deadline [for the additional signatures], as we figured the candidates would be earnest about collecting the signatures.”
Five of the 13 candidates collected the necessary 500 signatures from the beginning and were not required to submit additional signatures.
Singh said, “This year – and I guess this happens every year – some kids [thought] it [would be] funny to write fake names like Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker or Stephen Colbert. But what happened this year was that we ended up counting the signatures, all 500 for all of [the candidates].”
Cernota said, “It wasn’t necessarily as much duplicate signatures as it was people signed Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker. Much of the cast of The Lord of the Rings were on some of them. I don’t think there was anything untoward. I think people were just trying to be funny; it was just a little bit of housekeeping getting everything in the right place.”
Singh said, “In previous years we generally would [have] let [duplicate or faked signatures] go, but this year we’re trying to be very, very strict about it. We really want to make it fair… We want to keep the rules very tight and observe them very carefully, so we can carve out the best possible [Student Council] Presidential campaign without controversy.”
The Election Commission decided against disqualifying the eight candidates who submitted false signatures.
Singh said, “We contemplated the idea [of disqualifying the eight], but they got the 500 signatures… Maybe in the future we can say, ‘If you don’t get the proper 500 signatures you can’t run,’ but because this is the first year we [closely reviewed the signatures]… I didn’t want to flirt with an idea so drastic.”
One candidate dropped out of the race on Friday because he was unable to collect the 500 signatures required to begin campaigning.
Students interested in running for president were also required to submit a 250 word platform and a detailed spending budget along with the signatures to the Election Commission in order to begin campaigning.
The Election Commission consists of Cernota, Paul Murphy, Dean of Students and Faculty Advisor to Student Council, and the Executive Board of Student Council: Singh, Min Jae Yoo ’12, Vice President, and Colton Dempsey ’12, Executive Secretary.