In the culmination of a long election process marred by controversy, junior Jesse Longoria won the position of Duke Student Government president by a 19.2 percent margin in Wednesday’s runoff vote.
Longoria garnered 54.6 percent of the 2,852 votes cast. His opponent, junior Russ Ferguson, received 35.4 percent.
Longoria thanked his supporters Wednesday night and expressed enthusiasm for taking over the reins of DSG from current president senior Pasha Majdi on the Last Day of Classes April 27.
“I’m excited to be working with the Executive Committee that was elected last week,” he said. “I think they have a clear vision of what we need to do so we can start producing tangible results for the student body.”
Though Longoria received the most votes in the initial election March 31, he did not receive a majority nor did he distance himself from runner-up, junior Emily Aviki, by more than 10 percent—the margin mandated for victory by DSG bylaws. The runoff Wednesday was held between Longoria and Ferguson after the DSG Election Commission disqualified Aviki Tuesday night for illegal campaign activities.
“I’m glad in the end everything worked out fairly,” Ferguson said. “Jesse won fairly and I congratulate him for that.”
Senior Elizabeth Ladner, DSG attorney general and chair of the Election Commission, said despite the problems encountered earlier in the election process, Wednesday’s vote went off without a hitch.
“Unfortunately, the overall election dragged on, but the runoff went very smoothly,” she said. “I’m very pleased that people got out today and expressed their opinions.”
Ladner also cited the turnout of 45.2 percent of students as very high for a runoff election.
“Voter turnout was much better than expected,” she said. “Obviously students are interested in the process, and I also think it’s a credit to both candidates to be able to get voters to turnout after days and days of delaying the election.”
Though Longoria said he tried to stay out of the election’s controversies, he noted that election reform will be an important issue next year.
“I definitely think it’s going to be important to step back and look at the system, to benchmark where our system is and to make any changes we can to make sure our elections run as smoothly as possible in the future,” he said.
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One possible solution would be the implementation of an instant voter runoff system, Ladner said. The technology, which is called for in the current election bylaws, would allow voters to rank each of the candidates, negating the need to hold runoff elections.
“We don’t own the capabilities because it’s very expensive technology. This election certainly has proven the necessity of such a system,” Ladner said.
Longoria’s victory marks the end of a tumultuous election cycle. After being found guilty Sunday of violating election bylaws by posting a live link to the DSG voting website on her AOL Instant Messenger profile, Aviki was punished by being prohibited from campaigning for the runoff elections.
Ferguson appealed the decision, and the DSG Judiciary then declared the ruling unconstitutional early Tuesday morning, forcing a delay of the runoff vote. The Election Commission reconvened Tuesday night and voted to disqualify Aviki, allowing Ferguson to take her spot on the runoff ballot.