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Tuesday, June 6, 2023


Joshua Martin contests SGA election loss, drawing criticism

SGA President Joshua Martin, right, and his party were routed in last week’s election by Benjamin Rizk and Students Unite. Martin is now contesting the election. | Anh Le/The Cougar

SGA President Joshua Martin, right, and his party were routed in last week’s election by Benjamin Rizk and Students Unite. Martin is now contesting the election. | Anh Le/The Cougar

Student Government Association President Joshua Martin, citing voting “errors,” is contesting his loss to opponent Benjamin Rizk in front of the organization’s high court on Monday night in yet another SGA election controversy.

The contest, which was called in favor of Rizk by the SGA’s election office over the weekend, faced technical issues that initially kept some freshmen and transfer students from voting. But, voting was extended on Get Involved and everyone who wanted to vote was given the chance to, according to SGA Election Commissioner Tochi Okoli.

“By the end of the election, even up until 15 minutes before voting closed, when students would send their information through (an online form used to solve the technical issues), every single person on that form had been remedied,” Okoli said.  “An email was sent to everybody saying you are now eligible to vote. Everybody who wanted to vote in the election was able to vote.”

Martin, who quietly overhauled SGA’s election rules last year, submitted a formal inquiry to the SGA Supreme Court on Sunday and said he believes the voting issues “potentially could have swayed” the election. Okoli assured that is not the case.

“We actually have evidence to support the fact that it did not sway the outcome of the election whatsoever,” the election commissioner said. “Just by majority alone and also by seeing at the end of each day which party was winning, it was clear from the start which party would ultimately be successful.”

In a statement, Martin said he and his party, which was routed, “will immediately concede the election to respect the conclusion of the democratic process” if their case is unsuccessful. 

Rizk, a political science sophomore, denounced Martin’s efforts to contest the race and criticized the sweeping changes the incumbent made to election rules.

“The election code was not only revised in order to make it more difficult for lower-income students to run but also easier for incumbents to win,” Rizk said. “On top of that, it created many discrepancies in regards to properly enforcing the code, which slowed down the judicial process in administering election code violations.”

Among the changes were a jarring increase in campaign spending caps, changes to term limits and an end to ranked-choice voting.

This is not the first time the SGA has been engulfed by a controversial election. In 2021, Arsalan Darbin won the presidency by default after the spiritual predecessor of Martin’s party was disqualified by the SGA Supreme Court. 

The entire organization was later upended after Darbin faced — and lost — a University-wide referendum that should have ousted him, but the organization’s justice department overturned it.

Despite the controversy, this year’s elections experienced record turnout in comparison to the past three years, according to Okoli, and Rizk’s Students Unite party won by a wide margin.

“Especially because of the political climate that we’re in right now, in terms of the nation not even just at UH, it’s becoming increasingly popular to question the democratic process,” Okoli said.

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