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The Tiger

CUSG election rules unclear: Miscommunications between Elections Board and candidates result in mishandling of violations

Isabelle Davis, Asst. Photo Editor

Per a FOIA request, The Tiger received documentation of both CUSG presidential candidates’ campaigns and possible infractions.

The Clemson Undergraduate Student Government (CUSG) Elections Board, which oversees the elections process and enforces campaign guidelines, did not follow their guidelines in dealing with violations by one campaign this year, according to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by

The Tiger.

The Wilson/Seidman CUSG Presidential campaign received multiple violations during elections, which were overseen by the Elections Board, according to documents provided to the newspaper. Wilson, in a phone interview, said “no official violations” were issued to his campaign.

Violations included the publication of a “House of Cards” parody video not previously approved by the Elections Board. The Blackshire/Burgess campaign reports alerting the Elections Board, claiming that the video “accused Blackshire/Burgess directly for tearing their banner down, even though in their

caption they said it was the wind. They also claimed that Blackshire/Burgess did not like ‘Cookout milkshakes, buffalo chicken wraps and frockets.’ This is in direct violation of the rule in the bylaws that states that you may comment on a team’s platform, but not personality, and can serve as possible grounds for disqualification.”

The 2016 race for student body president was overseen by the Elections Board, which — according to the Student Body Handbook, section Student Government Elections, subsection III — are responsible for formulating “updated rules and regulations for student body elections,” as well as ensuring that the elections are run

with “integrity.” 

Further, the Board “determine[s] sanctions for student body election violations.” However, Paragraph C of the Violations and Disqualifications subsection of the student handbook stipulates that “each violation” receives the sanction of “a reduction in the total campaign budget and taking down campaign material.” The first violation should result in “$50 reduction [from budget] and three ground stakes.”

The Wilson/Seidman campaign received “verbal warnings” instead.

A bill passed by CUSG Senate in November to update the student body handbook, sponsored by the 2016 Elections Board Director Amanda Nerone, as well as the current online copy of the student handbook (which is still the un-updated version) stipulates that “an official violation form” must be submitted to CUSG offices in order to proceed. 

A FOIA filed by the Tiger produced “no responsive records” for evidence submitted in proof of violations for either campaign. A list of violations by either campaign was created after the request was submitted, as no written record existed prior, according to Nerone. 

Nerone stated that though violations occurred, she would not release the campaign that received the violations. “I handled it so that everything was private. Everything was taken care of appropriately,” Nerone said.

No official violation forms were received by The Tiger. Nerone indicated that this was because “the Elections Board was able to witness the violations.” Nerone was alerted of violations for published material by multiple students, both inside and outside the Blackshire/Burgess campaign. None filled out a

violations form.

The Wilson/Seidman campaign received violations for published campaign material “not previously approved by Elections Board” and “minor social media violations on elections day.” 

In a phone interview on March 17, Joey Wilson said, “As far as I know, we received no official violations.”

The Student Handbook, article D, subsection I, paragraph S states that “candidates may speak about another candidate’s position on campus issues and how they differ on these positions so long as these statements are truthful. Falsifying information about a candidate might result in immediate disqualification.” 

Wilson said that the video was taken down as a “courtesy,” and “not because it violated any rules.”

Wilson said he does not have a copy of the video.

Nick Storm, who produced the video, also said he deleted his copy.

The Blackshire/Burgess campaign also reported incidents of active campaigning on election day, which is against Article I, subsection B, which states that “all campaigning will end at 12:00 a.m. on the day of the start of the election.” These incidents included proof of social media posts and testimonials of Snapchat videos (which cannot be recorded).

According to Robert Ley, the Blackshire/Burgess campaign manager, “The Elections Director confirmed that [Wilson’s] team was penalized for these infractions, but not to what extent they were penalized.”

Nerone stated that the violations found on election day counted as “one offense” because they “occurred within 24 hours of each other.”

There is nothing in the Student Handbook indicating that multiple violations occurring within 24 hours of each other should be counted as one offense. Violations must be decided by the Elections Board within 24 hours.

According to Nerone, “verbal warnings were issued in both cases.”

The violations list cites no recorded violations for the Blackshire/Burgess campaign. Ley said, “We made our top two priorities in the Blackshire/Burgess campaign that we would not slander the other team, and that we would follow the rules set by CUSG to our best ability. I’m proud that we accomplished both of those goals, while it saddens me the other campaign did not. What is the point of having campaign rules if they are not enforced?”

Vice President of Student Affairs and CUSG Advisor Doug Hallenbeck said he was not made aware of any violations or their procedures.

Wilson, who has since been sworn in as CUSG President said that it will be a goal of his administration to “improve our policies to make them clearer and more transparent.” He is “confident that the new Elections Director will work with the Senate President and the Finance and Procedures Chair to ensure that this happens.” 

According to Article D, subsection I, paragraph l of the Student Handbook, both candidates are required to submit an itemized expense report. Both campaigns did so. Blackshire/Burgess included copies of receipts to the Elections Board. The Wilson campaign did not.

There is no standard form for submitted budgets. 

The Student Handbook stipulates that receipts are required “upon request,” but that “full financial disclosure statements” are required from both campaigns. This also includes an assessment of items at “fair market value.” The Wilson/Seidman campaign indicated two events, at TD’s and KFC, that would hold “hopefully no associated cost,” as per their final budget. Article D, subsection I paragraph u, subparagraph iii indicates that “materials donated to a campaign not evidenced by a receipt will be assessed at fair market value.” 

Nerone stated that she “personally audited” each campaign. “I think that it was a fair process,” Nerone said. “Everybody felt good.”

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