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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Newton election disqualification reversed

Chapter+601+Article+VI+Section+III%28a%29%281%29+of+the+Student+Government+Association%2C+or+SGA%2C+Code.%26%23160%3B

Chapter 601 Article VI Section III(a)(1) of the Student Government Association, or SGA, Code. 

On Friday, March 31 the Texas A&M Judicial Court reversed the disqualification of biomedical sciences junior Christian Newton for the 2023-24 student body president election in the Christian Newton v. Election Commissioner Gogineni case.

 

Newton filed for a Writ of Certiorari following his disqualification on March 3 due to allegations of falsifying documents from multiple shell companies and undervaluing donated items. The two statutes brought against Newton via email by Election Commissioner Yasaswi Gogineni were as follows:

  • Falsification of documents referring to the intentional and substantive corruption of documents that undermines the transparent nature of the election.

  • Disqualification only to be applied in cases where the violation can be confidently determined to undermine the free, fair, and safe nature of the election or the candidate has committed an act which prevents them from maintaining qualification as a candidate within the current election.

The A&M Judicial Court stated that in order to meet the standard of falsified documents, there must be “intentional and substantive corruption of documents.” The court did not find Gogineni’s argument to meet this criteria, and said she failed to provide concrete evidence to support the claim.  

The claim against Newton also stated he accepted supplies below fair market value. Due to the items being previously used they were classified as “donations” and required to be given at fair market value. The election commissioner used a football helmet that was sold to Newton for $1 as an example of undervaluing, but did not discuss the other 19 items they cited as undervalued.

The court did find several minor violations made by Newton such as not properly itemizing, invoices five and seven using the same customer I.D. However, since the violations would have resulted in fines that didn’t exceed Newton’s budget, the court said they didn’t warrant disqualification. 
However, the dissenting opinion from the court argues that the various minor violations equated to a major violation by going over budget that justifies the disqualification, according to Chapter 601 Article VI Section III(a)(1) of the Student Government Association, or SGA, Code. The majority opinion said accumulation of minor infractions were not a cause for disqualification.

“Regardless of how many minor violations the Petitioner might have committed, the S.G.A.C. does not allow candidates to be disqualified solely due to the accumulation of minor violations,” the statement reads.

Newton said the main purpose of appealing the disqualification was not to get back into the race, but rather to show that he and his team honored the Core Values.

“It wouldn’t have changed the outcome of the election, if you will, and so it wasn’t the first thing that I thought about doing,” Newton said. “…People talking about my potential expulsion and suspension and I thought … ‘this is wrong and this is something that I don’t want here by my name or my team’s name.’”

Ultimately, Newton’s disqualification was reversed, but the statements made regarding the violations won’t be removed. 

“The Court hereby finds the Election Commission’s decision to disqualify the Petitioner to be invalid,” the statement reads. “Furthermore, the Court will not mandate the Election Commission retract any statements made regarding the violations of the Spring 2023 elections. The petitioner’s request for the reversal of his disqualification is hereby granted.”

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