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23 February 2012

SG tickets head to trial for code violations, election results postponed

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Caitlin Giles and Nawara Alawa walk away from the Think B.I.G. candidates after speaking with them about the campaign code violations. The allegations against the two tickets will go to trial on Thursday. Natalie Edgar//The Miami Hurricane

This story was updated at 8:05 p.m. on Feb. 23.

Breaking news: The trial is open to students and will take place Thursday at 9:15 p.m. in UC 211. 

The results of this week’s Student Government election were not announced Wednesday night because election code violations have been filed against both the “Inspired by U” and “Think B.I.G.” tickets.

The allegations will be heard by the SG Supreme Court on Thursday at 9:15 p.m. in the University Center.

Ryan Aquilina, the campaign manager for the “Inspired by U” ticket, said he filed a violation against “Think B.I.G.” This was later confirmed by Associate Chief Justice Sean Norris.

“Think B.I.G.” is accused of violating the section of the code that states “there shall be no graphic or verbal campaigning within the square area of the UC Rock bottom of stairs, food court door closest to the polling area, post office door, and the door to the Toppel Career Center.”

“It was an egregious violation that we felt seriously hindered our team and that probably cost us a fair amount of votes,” Aquilina said.

Aquilina said that he did not witness when the code was violated, but that he filed the complaint after being told that “Think B.I.G.’s” campaigning occurred within the polling area.

The “Think B.I.G.” ticket did not comment on the allegations after several attempts to contact them via phone calls, text messages and emails.

According to Norris, Parker Barnett, the presidential candidate on the “Think B.I.G.” ticket, filed the complaint against “Inspired by U.” The ticket is accused of violating the section of the code that states “no organization’s office in the University Center may be used for campaign meetings, storing or producing campaign materials or serving as a campaign base in any other way.” “Inspired by U” allegedly used the Student Government office in the UC as a home base, Norris said.

Nawara Alawa, the presidential candidate on the “Inspired by U” ticket, thinks that the violations are related to when the ticket gathered Tuesday night at the Student Government office after arriving early for a Supreme Court trial.

“We are being accused of using the SG office as our campaign base, which I think is so ridiculous because our team is meeting in one place and they were waiting for an SG trial,” Alawa said. “If they’re meeting early to make sure they’re on time and follow all the rules, I feel like it’s very appropriate.”

Alawa was referring to a trial against “Think B.I.G.” on Tuesday evening. SG Press Secretary Mike Piacentino, a supporter of the “Inspired by U” ticket, filed a charge earlier this week against “Think B.I.G.” for violating the section of the code that states “campaigning at university sporting events is strictly prohibited.”

For the Tuesday trial against “Think B.I.G.,” the “Inspired by U” ticket provided photographs of a student wearing a “Think B.I.G.” T-shirt at last week’s men’s basketball game against North Carolina. For Thursday’s trial, each ticket will also have the opportunity to present evidence and witnesses while arguing their cases.

“Think B.I.G.” received a one-point violation for the basketball game incident because the student wearing a “Think B.I.G.” shirt was not proven to be an active member of the ticket.

For the allegations against each ticket that were announced Wednesday night, the two tickets were given the option of either both dropping the charges against each other or having both charges go to trial. Aquilina said “Inspired by U” was willing to drop the charges, but “Think B.I.G.” chose to let the matter go to trial.

Depending on the outcome of each hearing, the Elections Commission will allocate an amount of points to each ticket based on the severity of the violations. Violations can be worth up to 20 points. The accumulation of 20 points disqualifies any independent candidate, ticket or referendum, according to Norris.

If neither ticket is disqualified, the candidates that received the most votes in this week’s polls will win the election. If either ticket is disqualified, the election will go to the other ticket. If both tickets are disqualified, which Norris believes in unlikely, the election will be won by whichever write-in candidate had the most votes.

The election codes state that any UM student may bring notice of a violation to the attention of the Elections Commission up until one hour after the polls close on the last voting day. Polls closed Wednesday afternoon at 4 p.m. The complaint must be in writing, citing all relevant facts regarding the alleged violations.

The last time elections results were delayed was in 2008, when the “All About U” and “Committed to U” tickets were both accused of violating election codes during a run-off election. After going to trial, “Committed to U” received 15 points for campaigning in a no-campaigning zone.

“All About U” received no points for failing to file a second campaign finance form during the run-off because the campaign had no funds left. “Committed to U” eventually won the election.

“Inspired by U” Campaign Manager Ryan Aquilina said he believes that the matter should have come down to the students’ votes, whether they were influenced by the violation or not, because having the Supreme Court decide undermines the legitimacy of the process.

“We should allow students’ voices to be heard,” he said. “That’s the ultimate decision. That’s how democracy works.”

Alawa said that the accusations against “Inspired by U” are “petty.”

“If you are going to file over something so little and petty and you give that little regard to student voices, then why are you running for office?” she said.

24 thoughts on “SG tickets head to trial for code violations, election results postponed

  1. The Miami Hurricane has been extremely unprofessional and biased in the coverage of the Student Government election. It is obvious to anyone who reads only a few sentences that the Hurricane supports “Inspired By U” which is totally their choice, but I can say as a freshman reader I seriously respected the Hurricane before I read their biased article. After reading some of their articles on student government I’ve come to expect a certain level of unprofessionalism which does not look favorably on the paper.

    These election violations are quite frankly ridiculous. Using an SG office as home base does not impact voters, wearing a t-shirt to a basketball game does not automatically change the views of every student and fan watching, polling at the rock or even near the polling place does not affect voter’s opinions!

    At the end of the day, the ticket that most students- not the just the ones who are very involved in campus life/student government- like or can relate to is going to win. Students like getting free things, particularly food so naturally to get students to like or relate to you you will give them things. Think B.I.G. gave lollipops and donuts, Inspired by U gave palmcards…may the best man win.

  2. I don’t really think “Inspired by U” looks all that much better just because they supplied the paper with a comment on the situation at hand. “So ridiculous…” Really? That was all she could come up with? “No comment” was more productive and mature than something I would expect from a middle school Student Government campaign.

  3. I don’t blame the Think BIG ticket for not commenting. The Miami Hurricane has been extremely biased in their articles during this campaign season so, why would they (BIG) comment and have the Hurricane inevitably twist it?

  4. ummmmmmmmmmm the word accused is used on both sides, and even for the tickets involved in 2008. also it says allegations rather than claiming the violations are yet fact

  5. this is a common misconception in today’s media. Journalism isn’t mud-slinging. Journalism isn’t one-sided when you are a source of news. Journalism is reporting the facts to the reader. Yes, think BIG didn’t comment. They aren’t any less “accused” than the other side. Words are power and so is news. Everything about this article is biased. To that, there is no debate. All of the pictures show “Inspired by U” in a better light. As well as all of the quotes. Thanks for the demeaning journalism comment though.

  6. anyone realize if think big decided not to hide and actually give a quote it wouldn’t be this one sided? this is called journalism…

  7. if you are the only source for news on campus, why are you being BIASED?!! nice use of the term “accused”. I sure hope the student voice is heard at the end of all this stuff because the entire story sounds incredibly petty.

  8. wow this is really blatantly biased. really disappointed in the hurricane’s coverage of this. terrible job.

  9. “which I think is so ridiculous” ………just saying… big girl speech would be nice…

  10. “If both tickets are disqualified, which is unlikely according to Norris, the election will be won by whichever write-in candidate has the most votes.”

    So there’s a chance all the smart asses who wrote in sebastian the ibis, just made our mascot the president? YES!

  11. For anyone who was not at the announcement, Think BIG chose not to talk with reporters from any press that was on the scene. Inspired By U supporters are the only ones quoted because Think BIG denied multiple times to comment on what had transpired so the press got the information they were seeking from members of the Inspired By U ticket. This does NOT mean that the press is biased towards one ticket or another. It means that one ticket talked to the press and the other chose not to – and now that ticket must let reporters and public opinion decide what “no comment” really means.

  12. The fault isn’t with B.I.G.’s damage control, but with the writing of the article itself. Obviously it has an Inspired by U slant considering that a majority of the people quoted here are supporters of that campaign. It is not B.I.G.’s prerogative to comment on the issue considering that it is a delicate situation, and answering tactlessly could hinder their campaign. Plus mismanagement of PR is probably the cause of this entire mess in the first place.

  13. At this point it is Think B.I.G.’s prerogative to give comment to the reporters for the newspaper. Since they have so far failed to do they are sowing the seeds of their own defeat, at least in the eyes of the readers. For me personally, being told that a public figure has “no comment” on a matter such as this, it implicates them pretty strongly. So why hasn’t their campaign manger come out to combat these allegations? What is holding up their PR? If B.I.G. were being more proactive about damage control right now this article wouldn’t be nearly as biased, but they seem to be hiding out rather than confronting these allegations head on.

  14. The allegations against Inspired by U haven’t been made public yet. No one but the Elections Commission and Supreme Court knows what the allegations were. Inspired by U filed their complaint earlier, so the charges agains Think B.I.G. are already public knowledge.

  15. I just wish we could all get along like we used to in middle school. I wish that I could bake a cake, made out of rainbows and smiles and we’d all eat and be happy.

  16. I the The Hurricane has been pretty biased in its coverings of student elections, clearly showing favor to “Inspired by U.” In this article for instance, why mention specific details for the allegations against Think B.I.G. if you don’t have similar material for Inspired by U? I just think that in past weeks, both tickets haven’t gotten equal coverage and I think the campus newspaper should aim to be more neutral in the future.

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