SGA Election Update: Supreme court hearing rules in favor of Malone despite Megginson’s passionate testimony

By Morgan Givens
Staff writer

The turbulent SGA presidential election looks to have finally played its final suspenseful card. On Wednesday, April 11, the SGA supreme court ruled in favor of a runoff ballot of the option to vote for the Malone/Johnson campaign or vote to abstain.

Before the supreme court ruled this way, however, they listened to Abigail Megginson’s testimony on how her campaign should be included in the runoff on the basis that it is unconstitutional and against election statutes. In a short, five minute statement before a packed room, Megginson passionately gave reasons why she should be on the ballot.

“I made the appeal to because [Malone or abstain vote] not only violates election statutes, but it also violates the spirit of University of West Florida Student Government elections,” Megginson said.

In her testimony, she gave the definition of a runoff election, stating that the top two candidates should run against each other, so the logical solution would be to include her campaign on the ticket. Megginson also emphasized that nowhere in the election statutes does it state that the third place candidate cannot be placed into the runoff if one of the top two drops out. Megginson also brought up the extremely negative scenario SGA would be placed in if the majority of voters voted to abstain. Megginson’s final point was to bring common sense and inclusion in the discussion, setting the statues aside.

“There is a judicial term called ‘in favorem libertatis’, which means ‘in favor of liberty’ and when you don’t know what the statutes say, you should [err] on the side of inclusion. And in this case there’s a call for a free, fair election,” Megginson says in her testimony to the SGA supreme court. (Photo by Morgan Givens)

“There is a judicial term called ‘in favorem libertatis’, which means ‘in favor of liberty’ and when you don’t know what the statutes say, you should [err] on the side of inclusion. And in this case, there’s a call for a free, fair election,” Megginson said. “It just doesn’t seem democratic for someone to be elected when there is only one option and then the option to abstain.

“I’m not here because I think I deserve to be handed the election. I believe students should have the opportunity to vote for two viable candidates.”

After Megginson’s testimony, Brandon Malone and Zenani Johnson stood firm on their stance that the election committee made the correct decision.

“The SGA runoff procedures will be between the two candidates who received the most votes in the student body election, which was Zenani and [me], and Léonie and Rhea.” Malone said, reciting an email sent to candidates from the election commission. “It was out of our control that the opposing party decided to drop out of the race and we feel that it was fair game and we have been rolling with the punches ever since.”

The supreme court gave Megginson a chance to respond to Malone’s side of the argument. Her response was short, but substantial.

“Even though the election commission sending the email regarding runoff procedures, they cannot decide what is and isn’t constitutional and that is why this hearing is being held today,” Megginson said. “You’re going to have one choice here and only one choice, and that is simply not a runoff.”

After almost 10 minutes of deliberating, the supreme court returned and announced to rule in favor of the election commission to uphold the Malone or abstain ticket, but after Megginson’s testimony, the discussion to change and update election statutes will take place in the near future.

Brandon Malone is now the lone candidate in this SGA presidential election. With the decision made by the supreme court, he said it takes a lot of stress off his and his team’s shoulders.

“I’m very happy with the decision,” Malone said. “And I do have a lot of respect for Abigail for fighting for her right to be heard.”

Malone’s vice presidential candidate Zenani Johnson also let out a sigh of relief when the supreme court ruled in their favor.

Presidential candidate Brandon Malone and Zenani Johnson stating their defense on the election commission’s decision to keep their campaign as the only one on the ticket after the opposing team dropped. (Photo by Morgan Givens)

“I completely stand by everything our supreme court did today,” Johnson said. “We have a constitution and we will follow that. We’re happy with the decision and we’re happy that we followed our constitution.”

Although disappointed by the supreme court decision, Megginson says she is looking forward to her future and whatever opportunities come her way in her senior year at UWF. After running in this presidential election, which has deviated into the realm of the rare and unorthodox, she has received offers to pitch writing a story about her experience to Politico and the Washington Post.

“This whole process has taught me more than I expected, and I’ll remain on campus fighting for students, despite this decision,” Megginson said.

The SGA presidential runoff election will be held on Thursday, April 12 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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