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Jean-Baptiste edges field, avoids run-off

In one of the closest elections in Duke Student Government history, Joshua Jean-Baptiste won the organization's presidency Thursday.

Four of the five presidential candidates took at least one-fifth of the total vote on an election day in which students took stands on three referendum issues and DSG officials reported no major flaws.

Jean-Baptiste, a junior, was elected with 28.96 percent of the total vote, a margin of 6.11 percent over the runner-up, Emily Grey. Had Grey obtained three more votes, the race would have gone to a run-off. Candidates Brady Beecham and Ari Medoff followed close behind--Beecham trailed Grey by nine votes and Medoff was 65 votes behind Beecham. Josh Weiner finished fifth with 4.63 percent of the vote.

"I want to thank all the students for supporting me throughout this election," Jean-Baptiste said. "I'll do my best to represent the students' interest in the capacity that the president of the DSG has."

Jean-Baptiste cited as reasons for his victory his recent completion of several large projects as DSG vice president for student affairs, strong support from friends and an effective campaign. He said he felt he had a mandate from the student body.

"I think in the given situation, I have the plurality," he said. "I'll do my best to address the issues of all students--those that supported me and those that didn't. That's my job as DSG president."

In the other races, Troy Clair won vice president for student affairs by 9.38 percent, Clifford Davison won vice president for facilities and athletics by 10.68 percent, Thaniyyah Ahmad won vice president for community interaction by 20.9 percent and Lyndsay Beal won vice president for academic affairs by 43.62 percent. In the only uncontested race, Justin Ford won the executive vice president position.

Three referendum questions were also posed to voters in Thursday's election. An overwhelming 63.35 percent voted in favor of directly electing Campus Council's executive officers, and 57.7 percent said they were in favor of the residential ban on smoking--a ban supported by Campus Council, but opposed by DSG.

Over 46 percent of the voters also approved a plan to increase the student housing fee by a maximum of $40 per semester to bring back the DTV Movie Channel.

Campus Council President Vik Devisetty had mixed reaction to the results of the two referendum questions that concerned Campus Council.

He said the phrasing of the question on Campus Council's electoral procedures was biased.

"The referendum took place during a direct election," said Devisetty, a senior. "Had they taken place during a neutral time, the results would have been different."

The three possible answers were, "directly by the student body," "indirectly by quad representatives" and "not sure."

"Either way, Campus Council has already addressed the issue this year with a near unanimous result for maintaining the current system," Devisetty added. "If people don't agree with the Campus Council system, then they don't agree with representative democracy."

Devisetty said he was not surprised by the result of the smoking ban question, in which only 35.11 percent said they were not in favor of the ban. He said the result proved that Campus Council was thorough in gathering student opinion before making its decision.

This year's election drew 38.73 percent of the student body or 3,081 students, an increase of 711 over last year. Attorney General Elizabeth Kreul-Starr said she was satisfied with the turnout.

Kreul-Starr also said the election ran smoothly. DSG has not run an executive election without controversy or a run-off since 1996. This year, both the legislative elections and young trustee selection were marred with irregularities. This year's deadline for filing formal complaints about the election is 10 p.m. Friday.