Winner of SGA presidency called into question

Lashana Harney

The future of the Student Government Association’s next president is being called into question.

Following Tuesday’s senate meeting, current SGA President Nicki Taylor announced via email that an emergency SGA Judicial Council meeting will be held next week to hear an election appeal request. 

According to Taylor, the Judicial Council received an anonymous request on April 1 that Glasgow sophomore Jay Todd Richey be disqualified for violating  an election code.  

The source said they had photographic proof of campaign materials placed on doors within academic buildings on campus, such as the Thompson Complex. 

According to SGA’s Election Code 3.4.6., “There shall be no campaign material distributed into or onto doors or doorways on campus.”

If Richey is disqualified, Brian Chism—who lost the initial election— would gain the presidency.

Chism said he didn’t want to take a stance on the severity of the election code violation, but instead believes that verdict is for Judicial Council to decide.

“It is out of our hands,” Chism said.

The meeting will take place on April 16 at 4 p.m. in the Senate Chambers inside Downing Student Union. The meeting will be open to the public and students will be given the option to speak at the beginning of the meeting. The Judicial Council is expected to come to a decision that night. 

Taylor said, however, that it’s possible the author of the anonymous request may not come forward. If that is the case, Richey will defend his side and the council will have to make a decision based on Richey’s testament and the appeal filed.

 “Unless they come forward there is really nothing we can do to show the other side,” Taylor said.

Taylor said as SGA president, it is her job to stay impartial.

“I will stand behind whatever Judicial Council decides and I haven’t talked to them on any one way or another on how they should decide,” she said. “I’m leaving it entirely up to them and I am trying to stay as neutral as possible.”

Upon hearing about the appeal, Richey said he was stunned.

 “I had read through the election codes at least 10 times to make sure there were no violations that I committed, to make sure there was nothing that could be brought against me,” he said.

However, Richey admitted a violation is still a violation. 

“A single poster on a door, yes, that’s breaking the rules,” said Richey. “That is a violation of the election codes and I should be held accountable, but that doesn’t have the potential to lead to hundreds and hundreds of votes in my favor. Unless, it’s a very special door on campus that I guess everyone would see.” 

James Line, Richey’s campaign team member and SGA Public Relations Committee Chair, said he was the culprit who put the poster on the door. He said he read over the election codes, but it slipped his mind while he was out putting posters up throughout campus. 

“It was the only place in Thompson where I could find that there were posters up, like other posters, so I assumed that was a common area for posters,” Line said. “So, I put it up and didn’t think anything of it.”

Although Line agrees a rule was broken and that processes such as the election code appeal process is necessary, this violation does not warrant disqualification of Richey’s presidency. Line said Richey knew nothing about the placement of the poster until the appeal was filed and made public.

“If anyone deserves to be punished in any way, it’s me,” he said. 

At the meeting Richey and the anonymous requester will be given a chance to speak to the council. Following the meeting, the Judicial Council will decide on a course of action. 

“Everything that I worked hard for could potentially be gone over an honest mistake,” Richey said.

Richey said he was not the one to put the sign on the door rather it was a member of his campaign team. 

“As the candidate, I should’ve done a better job of informing them of what the rules are and of the election code, but that is my fault,” he said.

  Kate McElroy, Richey’s other campaign team member and Bowling Green junior, said she is uncertain if the election code violation deserves disqualification, and considers the particular election code violation in question to not be severe.

“I think it’s fair that we all abide by the campaign rules,” McElroy said. “Although I would consider that one, one of the more minor infractions and that was basically just my initial response, wondering the severity of that offense.” 

McElroy said Richey wouldn’t intentionally violate the election codes.

“I think his platforms show that he is really interested in transparency and advocating for people,” she said. “I can’t imagine that he would be trying to cover up over anything.”

Richey said he believes he should be warned instead of disqualified.

“If people truly believe that this incident should result in my disqualification then I encourage them to come to the meeting next Thursday at 4 and testify against me,” he said. “I would like to ask the person who is anonymous that submitted the appeal via first place to come forward and actually stand up for their accusations rather than just causing drama for the sake of drama.”

In a letter to the Justice Council, SGA Chief of Staff Seth Church outlined his concerns regarding the appeal request. Church once served on the Judicial Council. He argues disqualification is not the route to take regarding the violation. 

“In this election, the winner, Jay Todd Richey, took 63%,” he wrote. “I find it hard to believe that a small number of improperly displayed posters, only one if I am not mistaken, were enough to convince 350 WKU students to vote one way or the other.”

Church said he believes the decision should stand.

“I believe the appropriate remedy is to allow the decision to stand, permitting Student Government to get back to work at the business of governing people, rather than hearing petty appeals from candidates who were unable to secure a position,” he said.

Richey said he just doesn’t want to see so many votes go to waste.

“I would hate to see the students who were so hopeful for me and what I can do for the university and for them be let down over an honest mistake,” he said.

Despite the appeal request, Richey said he worked hard to campaign.

“I didn’t get much sleep,” he said. “I went through every route that I could possibly imagine.”

Richey said his campaign tactics mostly consisted of reaching out to organizations on campus, including the Greek community and several other groups.

“I truly care about this position so much that I reached out,” Richey said. “I personally wanted to reach out to, HOLAS, Alpha Kappa Si, Secular Student Alliance, Minority Women at WKU, organizations at WKU that students never heard of, even the Gamers Guild.”

Another avenue Richey pursued was talking with dual-credit high school students. 

“I realized these students are going to get many credit hours that they can transfer if they go to a public university in Kentucky,” Richey said. “They can transfer those credit hours. They can thank WKU for giving them that opportunity. They are WKU students and I said if you come to WKU, this what I want to see student government do, but they’re students and I reached out to them.”

Richey said although some students may not consider dual-credit students as “WKU students,” he believes they are and that it was fair to reach out to them.

“I don’t believe it would’ve been fair to set up an election polling booth, to set up a computer and ask people to come up, put their name in and vote,” he said.  “I don’t believe it would’ve been fair to solicit through email ‘vote for me.’… There are many things that aren’t fair, but reaching out to WKU students, no matter where they are, is completely fair… Anyone who would dismiss that as unfair, sorry. I don’t really have any response to that because there is nothing that says dual-credit students are not WKU students.”

Richey said he and his campaign team worked long hours. Richey said he knew what he could do for the university as SGA president, so the hard work was worth it. 

“I had to do it, and I was willing to do almost anything to make it possible,” he said.