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

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.

February 23, 2012

Reporters

Alysha Khan

Online Editor

Lyssa Goldberg

Lyssa Goldberg is online editor of The Miami Hurricane. She is a senior majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in math. She has interned at Mashable and the Miami New Times, and her work has also been featured in The Huffington Post.


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