Junior John Basmajian is now the Associated Students of California Lutheran University (ASCLU) president after winning the 2019-20 presidential runoff election March 5. Basmajian said the elections committee called him between “5:30 p.m. and 6” the same day to inform him that he had won.
According to ASCLUG election bylaws, the winning candidate must receive over 50 percent of the vote. Basmajian declined to share his exact percentage.
The first presidential election had four candidates: Basmajian, Sophomore Senator Thomas Singelyn, Sophomore Senator Stephanie Figueroa and Junior Senator Karyme Lara-Chagoya. After the first round of elections, Basmajian, Singelyn and Figueroa went to a three-candidate runoff because no one received at least 50 percent of the initial vote, according to Section 5 Items 3 and 4 of the ASCLU bylaws.
As of March 7, the exact voting percentages each candidate received in both the initial and runoff elections are still unknown.
In an email interview, Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Melinda Roper confirmed, “While it is commonly the case that a runoff involves two candidates, in this instance the candidate with the highest vote count did not receive over 50 percent of the votes, and the next top vote getters were tied. This resulted in a runoff between three candidates.”
Alexis Ghattas, current ASCLU president, said that the way the bylaws are written allow for the three-candidate runoff.
“It doesn’t not allow it…it would be against the elections packet and against the constitution and bylaws if I were to say, ‘I’m going to pick which candidate goes into the run-off,’” Ghattas said. “…It doesn’t say if the second place is tied but I mean what else are you going to do?”
Ghattas is the interim chair of the elections committee. She said the elections committee is comprised of the executive cabinet, two representatives from Programs Board and two senators from Senate. This committee “first and foremost (approves) the elections packet,” Ghattas said, which must be approved for each election.
“We have the power to levy sanctions if any candidate were to violate the elections packet…it’s not our job to police them, but obviously we have to respond to complaints,” Ghattas said.
Nick Steinwender, former ASCLU president, was removed from office Feb. 25 after choosing to step down from the committee to avoid a conflict of interest in endorsing friend and presidential candidate Thomas Singelyn. According to the press release ASCLUG sent to The Echo, nine students, including Figueroa and Lara-Chagoya, filed a complaint that Steinwender violated the duties of ASCLU president as outlined in the constitution and bylaws.
Singelyn said he does not think the overthrowing of Steinwender influenced the run-off election.
“I don’t think it necessarily changed the effect of the election,” Singelyn said. “It’s something that I’ve been now encouraging more students to look at as discussion and talking with people, because Nick [Steinwender] was essentially removed because people disagreed with him and I don’t think that’s a very successful way to lead government…just removing people from the conversation doesn’t really do anything besides, in my opinion, make things worse. So I don’t think it had necessarily a negative or positive effect. I think it’s just dependent on the individual and whether or not they think what happened is right.”
Figueroa declined to comment on Steinwender.
Nearly 733 students voted in the initial election. Ghattas said she was pleased by the turnout because “it’s never been 733.”
Nearly 627 students voted in the runoff election. Ghattas said ASCLUG “just missed” their goal of “30 percent voter turnout,” but were still content with the amount of voters.
None of the candidates have disclosed their percentages from either of the elections.
Basmajian will be sworn into office May 1, 2019. Before taking office, he will appoint the ASCLU finance director and relations director. Applications for these positions are due Sunday, March 10.