Editor’s note: This article was updated on Dec. 8, 2022, to include the Judiciary Council’s ruling on the petition’s first claim, which was communicated to students in an email sent on Dec. 7.
Ankit Sayed ’24 will be inaugurated as vice president of the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) next semester as the winner of the special election held on Dec. 3.
Sayed’s inauguration, which was supposed to take place at the AAS meeting on Monday, Dec. 5, was delayed after AAS Senator Zane Khiry ’25, who lost the election by one vote to Sayed, filed a motion with the Judiciary Council (JC) that day challenging the results. As of Wednesday, Dec. 7, the JC has found all claims in the petition to be invalid.
According to an email sent by the AAS to the student body on Tuesday, Dec. 6, the motion contained three complaints. The first regarded concerns about the vote-counting process. According to Khiry, the second identified a “conflict of interest” between Sayed’s candidacy for vice president and his having filed an impeachment petition for AAS President Sirus Wheaton ’23. The third accused Sayed of fraud for having not revealed his role in the impeachment to the student body until after the election.
In a JC vote that took place the day the petition was received, the second and third charges were “deemed invalid,” according to the email.
The JC met again on Wednesday, Dec. 7, to determine the validity of the first claim. An email sent to students later that evening reported that the claim was found to be invalid by a unanimous vote.
In an interview with The Student, Khiry said that, after seeing Sayed speak at the impeachment hearing on Monday night, he no longer believes that he was being deceitful. “Last night, I can definitely say, changed my perception of him,” he said in an interview with the Student on Tuesday, Dec. 6.
For his part, Sayed dismissed claims of a conflict of interest in an interview with The Student by insisting that he filed the motion to impeach Wheaton before he decided to run for vice president.
The challenge was yet another mishap in an election that was plagued by errors. Problems with balloting led to two false starts of the election, forcing students to vote three times. Later, tabulation errors led to a false result being reported, which declared Khiry the winner, before inconsistencies were discovered, delivering Sayed the one-vote victory.
According to AAS Senator Gillian Quinto ’23, a member of the Elections Committee, the problems with the election began on Dec. 1, which was supposed to be the day of the election. She said that problems with the email list for the class of 2026 provided to the AAS by the IT department prevented some first-years from accessing the Qualtrics survey once they received the email from the AAS. Members of the Elections Committee then consulted IT, who told them they had fixed the error. However, a subsequent attempt to send out the survey again resulted in some first-years not having access.
At this point, the committee delayed the election until Dec. 3 and decided to conduct it using Google Forms, which could be accessed by all students but would require the committee to tabulate the ranked-choice voting results manually.
At 9:30 p.m. the next day, Dec. 4, the Elections Committee sent an email to the student body announcing the results, which showed Khiry winning the election by one vote.
Khiry, who was attending a play when the results were announced, began to celebrate with his friends and called his parents. But about half an hour later, a senator noticed that five voters neglected to select a first-choice candidate but selected later options, such as a second or third choice.
After the Elections Committee scrambled to recount the votes, a follow-up email was sent at 12:12 a.m. on Dec. 5, announcing that the results had been altered. Sayed made up the deficit on the uncounted votes and was declared vice president.
Khiry described being “the most stressed I’ve been in a while” on the night the results were released. As he was waiting for the second round of results to be released, he was on the phone with his mother.
“I could barely get a thought out,” he said. “Which is odd, because I’m usually very articulate. But I was sitting there, and I just kept stuttering. Very stressful.”
Khiry said he was encouraged by other senators following the election to challenge the results. “People kept texting me the day after the election, like, ‘Oh my God, you need to fight this,’” he said. “I started to believe them.”
Khiry was careful to emphasize in his interview that he regrets characterizing Sayed as deceitful and that the dispute was not personal.
Regarding the numerous errors in the elections process, Quinto traced the issues back to a faulty email list that prevented the Elections Committee from using Qualtrics, which can automatically tabulate ranked-choice votes.
“It does suck because a lot of it was out of control,” she said.
The JC’s Dec. 7 email affirmed that “[t]he discrepancies in the inaccurate election results are not grounds for disregarding the corrected and accurate results, which carry a presumption of trustworthiness.”
The email concluded by noting that “[p]etitions about the result of the election will still be entertained up until the inauguration of the Vice President next semester, provided the information in the petitions could not reasonably have been known within 24 hours of the polls closing.”