Amid Reports of Election Rules Violations, Senate Launches Investigation
- Haley Gluhanich ‘19 and Marisa Balanda ‘21 are denying accusations that they intimidated voters during the Student Senate President and Vice President election held in early April.
- The Gettysburgian has spoken with four first-year residents of Paul Hall who claim that they were handed a phone by either Gluhanich or Balanda and asked to vote.
- The Student Senate has been “investigating claims of candidates breaking election rules after being approached by several students with those same concerns,” Vice President Aimee Bosman said.
- The Student Senate is expected to announce the results of its investigation soon.
By Gauri Mangala, Assistant News Editor
Hours before voting closed on the evening of Friday, April 6, the last day to vote in the President and Vice President election of the Gettysburg College Student Senate, a first-year student was returning to her room on the third floor of Paul Hall when she noticed that Senator Marisa Balanda ‘21, at the time a candidate for Student Senate Vice President, and another woman whom she did not recognize were knocking on other residents’ doors. Balanda and the unknown woman approached the student and asked if she had voted yet. When the resident responded no, she said that Balanda offered her a phone open to the Google Form to vote.
“I was a little taken aback,” remarked the resident, who took the phone and proceeded to vote quickly before returning to her room as Balanda and the other student, having thanked her, continued canvassing the floor. Because she did not know any of the candidates or have any particular interest in the race, the student said she otherwise likely would not have voted and only did so because Balanda handed her a phone with the ballot open.
Balanda disputed the suggestion that she handed anyone her phone or otherwise pressured anyone to vote. “I never handed my phone to anyone in any residence hall or academic building or knocked on anyone’s door,” she said. Several students have, however, submitted complaints to Bosman, who oversees elections as Vice President, alleging improper conduct.
On Sunday evening, Vice President Aimee Bosman ‘18 called an emergency meeting of Student Senate’s current executive board to discuss reports she had received of improper conduct by Balanda as well as Haley Gluhanich ‘19, who won the presidential race. The next night, after the Senate meeting, the executive board met with Balanda and Gluhanich to discuss the allegations, which suggest that the pair handed their phones to prospective voters with the Google Form used for balloting open and encouraged students to vote while they were present.
“I never handed my phone to anyone in any residence hall or academic building or knocked on anyone’s door.” – Marisa Balanda ‘21
According to Article IV, Section 4, point A-6 of the Student Senate Constitution, “Candidates may not intimidate students while they are casting their ballot.” This article was amended in March of 2018 as part of a package of revisions to the election rules. Previously, that clause said, “Candidates may not be around or intimidate students while they are casting their ballot.” Because senators—including candidates—were required to staff tables around campus with laptops to encourage higher voter turnout (630 people did vote, which Bosman described as a significant increase from past years, although previous numbers were not available) the provision regarding candidates being present was removed, according to Pat McKenna ’20, Senate Parliamentarian and Policy Committee Chair.
“We thought that [the old wording] was too nebulous and that especially as people worked … tables it could be interpreted too broadly,” he said.
Nevertheless, some students said actions by Gluhanich and Balanda caused them to feel pressured or intimidated to vote for them. This report is based on allegations from four first-year students, each of whom is a resident of Paul Hall. Three said they were given a phone and asked to vote in Paul Hall, while one said Gluhanich asked them to vote prior to a class they had together in Glatfelter Hall. Each source insisted that their name be withheld for fear of social retribution, a request The Gettysburgian granted. (For more on this decision, see the second editor’s note.)
One resident of Paul Hall told The Gettysburgian that she emailed Bosman and reported that Gluhanich and Balanda had knocked on her door. “Haley asked me, ‘have you voted yet?’ I said no. She said, ‘did you want to vote right now? It only takes ten seconds,'” the resident recalled. Gluhanich went on to hand the resident her own phone with the voting form already pulled up, told her her name and to vote for her. The resident, unsure of whether or not Gluhanich would be able to go back and read her vote, voted for her. “There was a little bit of pressure [because] she gave me her phone,” the resident explained, adding, “I imagine they had good intentions.” The resident said that she wished that Senate had more specificity in its rules, suggesting that “intimidation” was too vague of a term.
In response to allegations that she had asked students to vote for her, Gluhanich stated, “I would like to make it very clear that I never told/asked students to vote for me; rather I asked them to vote in general, which … is something that Senate encouraged by having us work the tables in the library. If someone has said otherwise, then it must have been a misinterpretation of the instance. I take the campaign rules extremely seriously and I had read them over several times, so it would be extremely out of character for me to do otherwise.”
Gluhanich explained that she “went around some residence halls knocking on students’ doors, asking if they had voted for Student Senate President and Vice President. If they said no, I followed up with asking them if they would like to vote and that I actually had the link on my phone, out of convenience for them. If they said yes, I handed them my phone and I backed away to give them space to vote. This was the same thing that occurred at the library (the executive board required that senators work a shift in the library to get people to vote). So I was just doing exactly what I did at the library, except it was in a different location, and I actually gave people more space to vote.”
She went on to state that her “motivation was to increase voter turnout. Having a large voter turnout is a good thing and asking people to spare a few moments to vote is just one way to achieve that. It was no secret that I was asking people if they wanted to vote in general, and many people actually encouraged it.”
Balanda commented on the allegations, stating that “I went with my friend Laryssa [Horodysky, who was elected clubs liaison] to get signatures. Our friend, Haley, also accompanied us to remind people to vote before the deadline.” She remarked, “As signatures were being obtained, I was present as another candidate (Haley Gluhanich) offered her phone to some students.”
“I did not coerce anyone to vote for me. I did not facilitate the process of voting. Intimidation is one of many terms that by its very definition is a matter of perspective.” – Marisa Balanda ‘21
She added, “I vehemently deny any allegation that suggests I may have violated any of the Senate bylaws regarding ‘intimidating’ voters. I did not coerce anyone to vote for me. I did not facilitate the process of voting. Intimidation is one of many terms that by its very definition is a matter of perspective. There is no way to quantify or truly determine an emotion of another person. Thus, I have always questioned the nature of that type of language being part of any official ‘rule book’ for any organization. [I] pride myself on the fact that I was raised to try to make my presence cordial at every moment during every encounter. I never intimidated anyone. It is not in my nature. And, I lost the election for Vice President.”
At last week’s Student Senate meeting, Bosman announced that Gluhanich had won the Presidential election 63 percent to 37 percent, defeating Anna Burns ‘19, and Balanda had lost the Vice Presidential election 56 percent to 44 percent, losing to Pat Custer ‘19. Balanda later won the secretary election against Burns, a contest in which only current senators vote.
Another student, a first-year who had a class with Gluhanich in Glatfelter Hall, said Gluhanich approached her before class had started and asked her if she had voted. After the student responded no, Gluhanich handed her her phone, leading the student to feel “peer-pressured” to vote for her. The student felt a “little bit intimidated,” and she asserted that Gluhanich “obviously had a motive because we are freshmen and naive,” and that she felt forced to vote for Gluhanich, remarking that “obviously I couldn’t vote for the other person” with Gluhanich standing there. “I felt obligated to vote for her because she handed me her phone and, in that moment, it was so fast,” she said. “You just couldn’t say no.” She added that she had wanted to read up on the candidates before casting her vote, but did not get that opportunity because Gluhanich pushed her to vote.
“I felt obligated to vote for her because she handed me her phone and, in that moment, it was so fast…you just couldn’t say no.”
When asked if she believed that she was violating the Senate bylaws prohibiting “intimidating” voters, Gluhanich responded that she did not.
“There is nothing that prohibits knocking on doors. And asking people to vote in general is not intimidating; students were free to vote for whoever they wanted – and there was no way for me to find out who they voted for. The word ‘intimidating’ is too vague in this context, as people view intimidation in many different ways,” she said.
“The word ‘intimidating’ is too vague in this context, as people view intimidation in many different ways.” – Haley Gluhanich ‘19
A fourth resident of Paul Hall, who was returning to her floor with a friend, was approached by both Balanda and Gluhanich. Gluhanich told Balanda that she had already spoken to the resident’s friend, and went on to ask the resident if she had voted. The resident said no, was asked by Gluhanich if she would like to vote, and was handed Gluhanich’s phone. She voted for Gluhanich. The resident felt that the “right to my privacy” was disregarded and noted that Gluhanich “didn’t even tell us her policies.” The resident hopes that, in the future, candidates would “encourage people to vote” but would not “pressure” them. She said that Senate should have a new election to give students a chance to give their vote proper consideration, rather than making a split-second decision about whether and for whom to vote while the candidate is present.
The Senate Constitution grants the Vice President authority to impose election remedies at his or her discretion subject to review by the Board of Directors, which includes the executive board and chairs of Senate committees. “The Vice President shall have the power to enforce penalties including, but not limited to, disqualification of candidacy,” the Constitution says.
“I have since continued the investigation and have kept Marisa and Haley in the loop as to the progress of this investigation. I will come to a decision soon and keep Haley and Marisa aware,” Bosman stated.
When pressed for further information regarding the status of the investigation, Bosman cited the ongoing investigation in declining to comment.
Bosman informed Senate of the investigation Thursday evening in an email to senators and club representatives. She did not include any names or possible violations that were being investigated, rather stating that the executive board has “been investigating claims of candidates breaking election rules after being approached by several students with those same concerns.”
She assured senators that she would release her findings when she felt as though the board had “adequate and accurate information to share.”
Senate is scheduled to hold its final official business meeting of the academic year on Monday.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said that the fourth resident of Paul Hall was approached on her way back from lunch by Balanda and Gluhanich. That source says that it was a meal during the afternoon, but not necessarily at traditional lunchtime. Because lunch implies a timeframe, we removed the phrase. Further, the opening of the story was edited to clarify that it was the resident who said Balanda offered her a phone. (-J. Welch)
Editor’s Note: The Gettysburgian does not typically grant anonymity to our sources, but we have done so in this instance because the students feared retaliation if their names appeared in connection with this story. These sources and their accounts were vetted through our editorial process which, in this case, involved two editors. Questions or comments about this or any story can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. (- J. Welch)
Editor’s Note: Several days ago, I became aware of information relevant to this story in a non-journalistic capacity that, thus, could not be used in this story. As such, I did not participate in the news-gathering phase of this story. During the course of her reporting, which had already commenced at the time I became aware of this information, Gauri Mangala uncovered the same information, which thus allowed it to be used journalistically. Thereafter, in my role as managing news editor, I provided editorial input throughout the composition and editing phases of the story. As always, Editor-in-Chief Jamie Welch exercised final editorial control, but, in the interest of full disclosure, I wanted to ensure this context was made available to readers. Questions or concerns can be directed to email@example.com. (- B. Pontz)
Editors involved in reviewing this story included Editor-in-Chief Jamie Welch, Managing News Editor Benjamin Pontz, Lead Copyeditor Morgan Hubbard, and News Copyeditor Lauren Hand.