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Vernon clinches SA presidency

Emma Fidel // Published April 21, 2009 in The Dartmouth

Frances Vernon and Cory Cunningham won Dartmouth's recent elections for student body president and vice president, which used instant runoff voting to select the winners.

Frances Vernon ‘10 and Cory Cunningham ‘10 were overwhelmingly elected student body president and vice president, respectively, on Monday, the Elections Planning and Advisory Committee reported early Tuesday morning.

Vernon won by a margin of more than 380 votes after eight rounds of instant-runoff voting. Vernon garnered 1,101 votes, while Boyd Lever ‘10 and John Nolan ‘10 received 715 and 290 votes, respectively, by the eighth round. The instant-runoff process allowed students to rank candidates, including write-in candidates, and eliminated the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes after each round of counting.

Cunningham received 1,033 votes after the seventh round of voting, and won by a margin of 531 votes in the last round against opponent Phil Aubart ‘10.

The election results were not released until 2 a.m. on Tuesday, although EPAC expected to announced the winners by 1 a.m., according to EPAC chair Justin Varilek ‘11. The results were delayed because EPAC was “confirming the numbers and figures, and making sure there were no irregularities or anomalies within the voting,” Varilek said.

Varilek added that EPAC will end polling before midnight next year so that results will be available earlier. Polls closed at 5 p.m. last year.

Vernon, who first heard the news when Cunningham called to congratulate her, said she was “really excited” about her new role in an interview with The Dartmouth after the results were released.

“I can’t wait to get started with all of the Dartmouth community,” Vernon said. “It’s just such a great opportunity.”

The Assembly passed legislation at the beginning of this month codifying the transfer of power between administrations, which will help Vernon transition into her new role, she said. She will be able to “hit the ground running” because much of the foundation for her 10-point “strategic plan” is already in place, she said.

Vernon thought the campaign process was “really fun” because it allowed her to connect with Dartmouth students and campus leaders, she said in an interview prior to the results’ release.

“It was a great experience to continue to reach out into the community and to continue to meet and be reacquainted with some of the leaders on campus,” Vernon said in the interview. “Over the past three years, we’ve flourished in our different areas on campus, and it was really awesome to get back in touch with people.”

Cunningham said he is “thrilled” to work with Vernon.

“I’ve known Frances since freshman fall working on Class Council,” he said. “And there’s honestly no one else at Dartmouth I would be more excited about working with in the position.”

Lever said early Monday night that he looked forward to getting at least seven hours of sleep “for the first time in a long time,” and Vernon joked about trying to stay awake for a potential victory celebration.

Breaking a recent trend of declining voter turnout, 2,136 ballots were cast in this year’s presidential election, up from last year’s 2,022.

The start of President-elect Jim Yong Kim’s administration this summer, pending budget cuts and the intensity of the week’s debates likely accounted for the increased voter participation, Varilek said.

Campaigning began on Monday, April 13, and ended at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, April 20.

Candidates participated in six debates throughout the week and discussed the College’s budget cuts, the forthcoming Alcohol Management Policy and Student Assembly structure, among other issues.

Reversing an earlier decision to end campaigning at noon on Monday, EPAC allowed candidates to solicit votes until 11:59 Monday night. Candidates were prohibited from encouraging students to vote for them on the online-only polling system by providing computer booths or bringing computers to potential voters.

Nolan’s campaign caused controversy earlier in the week when he admitted in a personal e-mail to Student Body President Molly Bode ‘09 and Student Body Vice President Nafeesa Remtilla ‘09 that his criticism of their administration during a Wednesday debate was “purely strategy” and did not reflect his actual beliefs.

Nolan could not be reached for comment by press time.

Lever criticized the week’s debate schedule in an interview with The Dartmouth prior to the release of the election results. He said cramming all of the debates into a seven-day time frame was “a bit superfluous and self-defeating.”

“I think what we need to start focusing on is actually a debate about substance, about the policies,” Lever said in the interview. “One thing that was most frustrating about campaign week was that none of those things ever seemed to come to light.”

Lever stressed the need to effect the changes the candidates discussed throughout the week.

“I learned we have a great community here, but there’s a lot of potential to do exceptional things within the framework,” he said, adding later, “What I want is governmental reform so we can have better dialogue between diverse communities on campus.”

Lever said after the results were released that he thinks Vernon has “got it covered.”

“I have complete faith in Frances’ ability to do the job,” he said.

Cunningham is a senior member of The Dartmouth Business Staff, and Aubart is a staff columnist for The Dartmouth.