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The election commission of the Black Students Association (BSA) may have improperly handled the ballot count of this year’s presidential election, according to outgoing publicity chair Christopher J. Lee ’06.
In an e-mail Friday to the Black Men’s Forum (BMF) list, Lee—a member of the original election commission—wrote that the tie that sparked a runoff election for the BSA presidency may not have been a tie at all.
Lee wrote that the original ballot count for the presidential election was not 63-63, but 64-63 in favor of candidate Zachary D. Raynor ’05, who ended up losing to Lawrence E. Adjah Jr. ’06 in a runoff election.
“Thus, the question was broached as to how we could make it appear that a 63-63 tie occurred,” wrote Lee in the e-mail. “The answer we came up with was to go back to the ballots, particularly those in favor of Zachary. Hence, after the 64-63 count had been established for more than three hours, we went back into his stack and removed one more ballot, calling it questionable.”
In his e-mail, Lee also accused fellow election commission members of “severe verbal abuse” and “physical belligerence.”
Lee could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In response to Lee’s allegations, the other members of the election commission—including outgoing president Olamipe I. Okunseinde ’04—sent an e-mail to the Association for Black Harvard Women (ABHW) list.
While they confirmed there was discussion about the legitimacy of some ballots in the e-mail, the election commission members wrote that the tie “was unanimously confirmed by all members of the Election Commission present in the room, one of those individuals being Christopher Lee, on Friday after the initial elections.”
“Admittedly, the clarity of the ballots should have been discussed by the entire Election Commission at the beginning of the meeting...For these mistakes, we sincerely apologize,” they wrote.
Beside Okunseinde, who is also a Crimson editor, this e-mail was signed by BSA board members Anne M. Morris ’04, Alana V. Davis ’06, Yata P. Kande ’04, Jennifer N. Wynn ’06 and Natalya S. Davis ’04.
Okunseinde said she was disappointed in the manner in which Lee went about addressing the black community.
“Lee chose to not be present at an important meeting held to discuss issues concerning elections and neither did he discuss his concerns within the entire Commission before addressing the entire community,” wrote Okunseinde in an e-mail to The Crimson yesterday.
She said Lee’s accusations of abuse were unsubstantiated.
“These accusations by Christopher Lee are what saddens me the most about the entire situation...I have full faith in [election commission members’] maturity and responsibility that they would not treat anyone—let alone a fellow Board member—in such a manner,” wrote Okunseinde.
The e-mails left many BSA members more unclear about an election that has already prompted several e-mails over the BMF and ABHW lists.
“When I read the e-mail, I was confused as to what the real story was. There had just been so many [e-mails] before that staking some sort of a claim as to how the election was run,” said BSA member Peter G. Asante ’07.
Earlier this month, a debate erupted over the BMF list about e-mailing ballots for the BSA presidential runoff election. The runoff ultimately took place at a Sunday meeting and yielded results heavily in favor of Adjah, who won 104-60.
Lee’s e-mail also elicited a response from Adjah and Raynor. In an e-mail to the BMF list, the two issued a joint statement calling upon the black community to not lose faith in the incoming board, or in BSA at large, for mistakes that may or may not have been made by the outgoing board.
Past BSA presidents Brandon A. Gayle ’03, Charles M. Moore ’04 and Aaliyah N. Williams ’02 also weighed in on Lee’s accusations. In an e-mail to ABHW, they wrote that both Gayle and Moore have seen the questionable ballot that was discounted in the final 63-63 tally.
“While it is true that the decision to disqualify that ballot was a judgment call, the decision was one that a reasonable person could make and that we would have probably made ourselves,” they wrote in the e-mail.
They also wrote that the black community should move on from this incident—a sentiment shared by president-elect Adjah.
“I want everyone to be able to voice their concerns. But I think the new board and the community is ready to move on once their concerns are addressed,” said Adjah.
Despite Lee’s e-mail, Raynor said he will not push for another election. According to Raynor, the electoral issues will be addressed in a general meeting in the future, though a date has yet to be set.
“I just want the truth, and we are in the process of clearing up what happened,” said Raynor. “I think there were a lot of flaws in getting to the end result of the election, and I think everyone involved has good intentions but made poor choices.”
—Staff writer Shayak Sarkar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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