Van Ranken, Emley win SGA runoff

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The Monday runoff election for student body president and vice president resulted in write-in candidates earning a position on the Student Governing Association general election ballot.

The pairing of Jessica Van Ranken, junior in political science, and Trenton Kennedy, sophomore in entrepreneurship, received the most votes, followed by the pair of Michael Emley, senior in accounting, and Linda Bilberry, senior in agricultural economics. Emley and Bilberry were the write-in candidates in the previously held primary election Feb. 23-24.

Robert Sharp, junior in political science, and Sam Hughes, sophomore in political science, placed third in the runoff and will not appear on the general election ballot.

A total of 1,780 votes were cast in the runoff. Van Ranken and Kennedy received 891 votes, or 50.06 percent. Emley and Bilberry received 772, or 43.37 percent, and Sharp and Hughes received 117, or 6.57 percent.

The vote totals remain unofficial for 24 hours, allowing time for the candidates to file a complaint of the results, Logan Britton, SGA elections commissioner and graduate student in agricultural economics, said.

The runoff election had lower voter turnout than the primary election. While 1,780 votes were cast in the runoff, 1,915 votes were cast in the primary.

After the primary election, a flaw was discovered in the write-in process, which led to the decision for a runoff, Britton said.

“The election system is not broken,” Britton said. “The write-in process is flawed in its design.”

Britton said the flaw in the write-in process resulted in several blank ballots. While the primary had 1,915 votes, there was a total of 2,126 voters on the ballot, or a difference of 211 votes. The difference between Sharp’s total and Emley’s total was 77 votes.

In the primary, Van Ranken and Kennedy received 1,395 votes, or 72.85 percent, Sharp and Hughes received 264 votes or 13.79 percent, and Emley and Bilberry received 187 votes, or 9.77 percent.

The flaw stemmed from the three-step process for writing in a candidate, due to the lack of instruction for the third step, Britton said.

“Whenever (voters) went in to write a candidate, they put the president in there, then they put the vice president,” Britton said. “Some students may have thought that by putting both names they had completed it, but there’s actually a third step after writing all the names where they had to press a green button that said ‘add candidate.'”

The green button needed to be pressed to add the selected write-in students to the ballot before voting for them. There may have been confusion, Britton said, where students thought they had already voted and the button only needed to be pressed to add another write-in pair. This confusion may have been the reason for the difference between the votes cast and the total number of ballots.

Britton said he believes the runoff was the right decision, which was made after an hourlong hearing and two hours of deliberation.

“We had a hearing,” Britton said. “We said that with the rate of write-in ballots casted, we suspected that Lindy (Bilberry) and Michael (Emley), there was suspicion that they might have got second in the actual primary if the design flaw was not there.”

Britton said steps are already being taken to fix the flaw for future elections, but the flaw will still be present in the general election Tuesday and Wednesday. He said it is possible, although unlikely, for a write-in candidate to win the general election for Student Senate due to the large number of candidates.

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Jason Tidd
Jason Tidd graduated from Kansas State University's Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication in May 2017. He was the spring 2017 editor-in-chief, fall 2016 news editor and spring 2016 assistant news editor. While at K-State, Jason played baritone in the Pride of Wildcat Land marching band.