SGA election results spark controversy

In a Student Government Association election mired by controversy, Cory Okular and Justen Vrabel defeated Robert Park and Patrick Bascom by a vote count of 295 to 145.

But the official tally doesn’t tell the entire story.

Okular and Vrabel were docked 15 percent after Vrabel allegedly solicited votes inside Kilcawley Center during voting, a campaign violation according to SGA bylaws.

In early March, Jared Buker, Jambar columnist and Alpha Phi Delta president, said he was approached by Park, who wanted to campaign at Buker’s fraternity. After notifying SGA about Park’s inquiry, a hearing was set up to decide if Park and Bascom had broken an SGA bylaw by campaigning early.

Buker said he showed up at the hearing but never officially filed a grievance for one simple reason.

When Buker showed up, “They just weren’t there,” he said. The room was empty.

That was incident one.

Incident two happened on the first day of voting when Vrabel was talking to prospective voters inside Kilcawley Center.

Campaigning inside Kilcawley Center is forbidden during the election on Tuesday and Wednesday, as it’s seen as an unfair advantage, Katie Carpenter, SGA’s election board commissioner, said.

But Vrabel said he wasn’t campaigning.

“What I had told the person was, ‘Hey, did you vote yet?’ Basically that was taken to be, ‘Go vote for me,’” Vrabel said.

Vrabel said he was aware that they were not allowed to directly campaign in Kilcawley Center, but was not aware that encouraging others to vote was included in the rule.

“So the other candidates, Park and Bascom, filed a grievance. After that, we had a hearing to discuss [the grievance],” Carpenter said.

During that hearing, a video shot by Bascom was deemed speculative by the elections committee and never entered into evidence.

The video depicted Alina Rios, a Jambar reporter and member of XXX, working behind the Candy Counter in Kilcawley Center on Tuesday during the election.

She commented on several students approached by and talking to Vrabel only feet away from the counter.

One of those students was senior Mike Adamson, who bumped into Vrabel at the Candy Counter during the election.

Adamson asked Vrabel if the voting was still happening, to which Vrabel replied yes.

Adamson added that he voted for Vrabel, but he was not coerced in his decision.

Freshman business major Gina Gilmore also ran into Vrabel. She said Vrabel asked her to vote by the steps outside of Kilcawley Center.

“Justen said, ‘There’s voting going on inside for SGA. My name is Justen from the college of STEM,’” Gilmore said.

Gilmore said Vrabel did not specifically mention that he was involved in the election, nor did he say, “Go vote for me.”

While the elections committee did not investigate these incidents, the grievance filed by Bascom, who said that he did everything he could to stay within the campaigning guidelines, swayed the elections committee to dock Okular and Vrabel 15 percent.

Bascom said he saw Vrabel talking with voters inside of Kilcawley Center on Tuesday, which Vrabel admits he did. But what was said was the crux of the debate.

A formal complaint was submitted on Tuesday by Bascom, which he presented to the SGA election board. It included his eyewitness accounts and the video.

“We decided that that was very questionable and not sufficient enough evidence,” Carpenter said.

Vrabel had presented a written statement from YSU student Wilford Barnes saying that Vrabel did ask him to vote, but this did not sway the way he was going to vote.

“The evidence that played into account was just what various members of the committee had heard,” Carpenter said.

The hearing was held Wednesday night after the elections had closed. This was when the board elected to dock 15 percent of Okular and Vrabel’s votes.

When Bascom heard of this, he thought it was better than nothing, but still doesn’t feel like it was a fair election.

Okular said he received the news like a punch in the gut. He added that he would like to put this behind him and prepare to serve the student body.

“I think, in the end, results will speak for themselves, and at the end of next year, you can say I did a good job, that I left YSU better than when I came here and that will be my reputation,” Okular said. “People won’t remember the 15 percent blemish if you do a good job.” 

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