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USF leaders revoke victory of DeSantis supporter who won student president election

Accusations of ‘rigged’ and ‘stolen’ election fly after victory nullified, given to runners up

Student and administrative leaders at the University of South Florida recently rescinded the results of a student body president election, revoking the victory of a conservative-leaning ticket and handing the win to the runners up, who ran a more liberal-minded campaign.

The springtime election victory of Sebastian Solano and Jessica Malanga for USF student body president and vice president, respectively, was revoked first by the Student Government Supreme Court and then recently upheld by USF Dean of Students Danielle McDonald.

The student supreme court and dean of students agreed that Solano and Malanga had set up an illegal polling site on campus as the reason for overturning the election results, however the duo argued that charge was baseless and relied on vague and confusing statutes.

It was well-known on campus that Malanga formerly served as an intern for Republican Ron DeSantis’ gubernatorial re-election campaign and also had objected to a student government resolution supporting transgender extremism, the Tampa Free Press reported.

The student who held the position of supervisor of elections, Laura Shaw, had openly supported the candidates running against Solano and Malanga. Shaw testified against Solano and Malanga (pictured) during the student supreme court trial, the Press reported.

Malanga told the Press that on a post announcing the Solano and Malanga victory, Shaw “admitted to liking a comment which read ‘It ain’t over till it’s over.’”

“We asked why she would like such an inflammatory comment if not but to encourage the overthrowing of the outcome of the election. Unfortunately, her other friends on the Supreme Court were not swayed by this blatant conflict of interest.”

In a May 12 statement, Solano and Malanga condemned campus leaders’ decision to take the victory away from them: “Unfortunately, our opponents and their allies in [student government] and the USF administration worked together to disregard and change the rules and ultimately steal the election from us and from you.”

Social media comments were awash with comments calling it a “rigged” and “stolen” election, the Tampa Free Press reported.

Solano and Malanga in March had won the election with 1,076 votes, while the runners up Cesar Esmeraldi and Elizabeth Volmy had 1,011 votes, a 65-vote differential, the Oracle student newspaper reported.

On May 12, the dean of students upheld overturning the election results, according to a copy of the decision obtained by The College Fix.

“In this election, the votes were very close and the violation was severe enough that it could have impacted the results. Therefore, I am upholding the decision to disqualify the Solano/Malanga ticket,” McDonald wrote.

At issue was a campus get-out-the-vote tabling Solano and Malanga held Feb. 28 where they passed out snacks and handed out fliers with a QR code linked to online voting, the Press reported.

Officials ultimately determined it was an unauthorized polling station even though the duo pointed out campus statutes regarding such efforts are “vague, the activities were representative of common campaign activities, and the external resources were not clear.”

Solano and Malanga have not responded to several requests from The College Fix seeking comment. Student government representatives also did not respond to requests from The College Fix.

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About the Author
Lorenzo Prieto -- Johns Hopkins University