The Sam Houston State University Supreme Court convened Tuesday to deliberate the disqualification of Student Government Association (SGA) presidential candidate David Eller.
The court made a unanimous decision to overturn the election commission’s decision to disqualify Eller, officially making him the SGA president with Alexus Hardy as vice president, Jaidyn Wilkerson as secretary, Christian Wolford as treasurer and Amanda Lee as chief of staff.
“We find that the election commission committed error,” Director of the Office of Student Legal and Mediation Services Gene Roberts said. “We are also encouraging the election commission to certify the results with the votes of Mr. Eller prior to the protest and the disqualification.”
At the beginning of the hearing, petitioner Eller and witness Jasmyne Eastland were both sworn in under oath. Eller then proceeded, having 10 minutes to explain his case, while court members were able to ask questions.
On March 27, a “top five” banner was found hanging outside on the front of the Lowman Student Center, showing all five of the top ticket candidates running for the SGA executive board. The banner was removed by LSC Director Robert Webber after current SGA President Briauna Augustus asked him to remove it because it would be in violation of the Election Commission code to have campaigning materials sponsored by any on-campus entities. This violation required the candidates to remove all of their campaigning materials on campus and on social media. All social media posts were deleted, and the group went out to take down all of their on-campus signs.
“We took two hours during the thunderstorm and tornado warning that day to get all of our signs,” Eller said. “We could not find two of them. So we did obey what they said by going and removing everything. We literally could not see in front of us, we were wading through water, lighting was striking all around us. As soon as we couldn’t find the two yard signs, I made it a point to speak to the Supreme Court Chief Justice at the time, who was Vice President Frank Parker, and let him know. I spoke with Dean Smith, I spoke with Dean Yarabeck, and I sent Briauna an email.”
Augustus replied to Eller, agreeing that under the circumstances it was “fine,” so Eller did not file an appeal because it seemed unnecessary.
The top five’s opponents then found one of the missing yard signs and filed another protest against them.
“When the sign was found, the sign was standing straight up like no wind had blown that whole day,” Eller said. “But every sign we did find was blown away or laying down flat, and we did not place any signs on that side of the LSC. I am not saying that they planted that sign there, but I am saying that anything could happen. Someone could have picked it up and put it there.”
When the Election Commission met to deliberate the consequences of the campaigning materials, they ultimately decided to disqualify Eller from his presidential candidacy and allow the other four of the top five candidates to keep their elected titles.
According to Eastland, following the election commission’s meeting, she overheard two commissioners speaking to Eller, saying that they did not agree with the decision made and that they did not know that they could have overthrown the entire protests by speaking out. Eastland also witnessed Augustus, who serves as election coordinator, say to Eller that he should appeal the commission’s decision.
After the election commission made their decision, it then went to the Supreme Court for deliberation. Following Eller and Eastland’s testimonies, the Supreme Court ultimately concluded that Eller should not be disqualified.
Eller fought back tears of excitement as he heard the verdict. Fellow SGA members comforted him outside the courtroom, reminding him that it was finally over.
“It’s been a really long process and even though we have really been drug through the coals, the students can appreciate that we are still here to fight for them like we said at the beginning,” Eller said. “We are still here to fight through all the personal issues. We are here to serve the students, and that’s exactly what we are going to do.”