What seemed like an ordinary campus organization election has turned into chaos, so much so that the elections have been cancelled until next semester.
The Denison Democrats planned to hold elections for a new president this past Monday, but as more and more people outside of the club began to participate in campaigning for the two candidates.
The candidates for president are Matthew Nowling ‘21 and Kyle Mares ‘20. Mares is currently abroad and unable to campaign on campus. As discussion of the elections has sparked other organizations to endorse either candidate. The result is a “popular contest” instead of a calm, collected and democratic election, according to the current president of the Denison Democrats Nick Petrosky ‘19. The elections were cancelled last minute.
“This election has devolved into a popularity contest, soliciting votes from persons who appear to not be substantially involved with the organization — which I believe to not be in line with the spirit of the Denison Democrats. I regret that my departure from Denison is creating an opportunity for such problems to occur, and I am disappointed that the process of elections is being taken advantage of,” Petrosky said in an email to the members of the club and Denison community.
Petrosky is a senior and therefore ineligible to remain president of the club. In the club’s constitution, elections are held at the end of the calendar year. Kara Jackson, the current Vice President, will assume the position of acting president. Elections will be held at the beginning of the spring semester.
President-candidate Nowling took to Facebook to give a statement on the process.
“I am so thankful for all of your overwhelming support in my run for the presidency of the Denison Democrats. It was recently announced that this election is canceled without any constitutional standing or any warning to the candidates involved,” Nowling wrote.
The decision to cancel the upcoming elections for President of Denison Democrats was made unilaterally by our current and outgoing President, Nick Petrosky. While the President has authority to “oversee electoral strategy,” it is unclear if this translates to the ability to unilaterally cancel an election. To the best of my knowledge, this act is unprecedented,” said Mares, a political science major from San Diego. “I understand Nick’s intentions; our executive board has been marred by ineffective leadership and petty infighting. This electoral process had been compromised by these things. However, I am not sure that a cancellation of this election will solve those problems, as they are unfortunately endemic to Denison Democrats leadership and necessitate real reform to how the club operates internally, and serves the student body.”
Part of the elevated drama with the elections also comes from the Denison Democrats attempting to include more students abroad in the voting process.
“We tried implementing email-voting in hopes that participatory members who were abroad or had other obligations would still be able to vote. This is in contrast to the past, where only those who were present at the election itself were able to vote. Our Exec board felt that needed to change,” said Petrosky. “However, as it has become clear to me, attempting to implement such a system during a special election like this one was not as good an idea as we had hoped. The short timeframe and the novelty of the system meant that we were unable to come up with proper procedures.”
The Denison Democrats partnered with the Denison College Republicans to help get as many people to vote during the mid-terms as possible. This was a big project of theirs and they succeeded in their goal of getting out the vote. Many hope this won’t be a stain on an otherwise objectively solid year for the Denison Democrats.
“I am committed to working with my fellow executive board and at-large members to create the constitutional and cultural changes that will allow for fair elections and efficacious leadership. We must hold ourselves to a better standard; Denison deserves a strong rallying point for its progressive voices, and a constructive space where students can discuss important issues and engage with all levels of government,” said Mares.
“My hopes are that the Exec Board takes this time to come up with an acceptable solution that balances fair voting in the spirit of the organization and free voting by any participatory member,” Petrosky said, giving hope to the members of the club.