Willett/Englert win MSA election after overturned expulsion

The election had a turnout of more than 8,000 students, the largest in MSA history.
MSA presidential and vice presidential slate Nathan Willett and Payton Englert. Courtesy of Nathan and Payton - MSA 2017 GoFundMe

After being expelled from and then reinstated in the MSA presidential race Wednesday, Nathan Willett and Payton Englert won the election with 54 percent of the vote.

The turnout was the largest in the history of the Missouri Students Association, with 8,548 students voting, according to the MSA Board of Elections Commissioners. The next closest was the election of Payton Head and Brenda Smith-Lezama in 2014, with 7,075 votes. The Enhance Mizzou student fee also passed, with 79 percent of the vote.

The BEC announced Wednesday morning that it was expelling Willett/Englert for “obstructing a free and fair election process.” BEC Vice Chairman Joe Sell said later during full Senate that the slate had been accused of filling out a ballot for another student.

Willett/Englert appealed the decision to the Student Court and won. Had the decision been upheld, Tori Schafer/Riley de Leon would have been the only slate remaining on the ballot. The third slate in the election, Josh Stockton/Shruti Gulati, dropped out of the election Saturday and endorsed Willett/Englert.

Students filled Leadership Auditorium on Wednesday night at full Senate before the Student Court released its decision. The open forum portion of the meeting lasted nearly two hours, with several students speaking in support of the Willett/Englert campaign. One student with a sign that said “Tori and Riley rigging the election like Hillary,” referring to U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, was escorted out of the meeting.

The Willett/Englert supporters who spoke during the open forum said the BEC’s expulsion of the slate was unjust because the board lacked evidence.

One student who was not a Willett/Englert supporter said the campaign was directed at predominantly white Greek organizations and called the situation “a big, petty mess.” Another student called them “snow tigers together,” a reference to the slate’s campaign slogan, “Tigers Together.”

Two nonwhite students supporting Willett/Englert spoke in response, and one said the other students should stop making everything about race.

Another student said that if students “do feel like you are marginalized,” they should reach out to MSA and other organizations.

At the end of the open forum, de Leon said he and Schafer had been made aware of the Willett/Englert expulsion Tuesday evening but said his campaign did not push for the expulsion or file the initial complaint.

In an interview after the announcement of the voting results, Willett emphasized the role of building relationships.

“It was a three-week campaign, but relationships take more than three weeks of progress,” he said. “We will bring more Tigers together in our administration. It’s not just a three-week campaign.”

Schafer released a statement on Twitter on Thursday morning thanking her supporters. She said she was flattered to be compared to Clinton, but said “the fact you associate me because of my gender shows how far we have to grow.”

“I know there are students who claim we tried to rig the election at some point,” she said. “This is completely false and truly laughable.”

The date of Willett/Englert’s inauguration has not been determined. Senate Speaker Mark McDaniel said the date will be released by April 7.

Edited by George Roberson | groberson@themaneater.com

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