The Daily Gamecock

Elections Commission issues penalties for campaign violations

<p>Alpert was assessed a small penalty after being cleared for two of three charges put against him.</p>
Alpert was assessed a small penalty after being cleared for two of three charges put against him.

Several student body candidates — Cory Alpert, president; Dennzon Winley, president; Stinson Rogers, treasurer — have been assessed penalties following accusations of campaign code violations. 

Campaign codes state that candidates are not allowed to campaign for the purpose of acquiring votes before the official candidates' meeting, which took place on Tuesday, Jan. 26.

Penalties are issued in the form of points. If a candidate receives five points during the election season, he or she is disqualified. The Constitutional Council decides any appeals brought forward by candidates who have been charged.

Alpert, third-year sociology student, was charged with a total of three points for three different violations. The Constitutional Council only penalized him with one-half point after his hearing on Thursday.

On Wednesday, Jan. 17, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee reported Alpert to the Elections Commission for publishing his official campaign website and accepting donations through it. The next day, Elections Commissioner Alexandra Badgett emailed Alpert to remind him that the website was in violation of election codes about premature campaigning. Alpert was shown to have received donations on his website as early as Jan 4.

Alpert was assessed one-and-a-half points for the premature launch of his website. He was charged separately for a "commit to vote" section on the website, which the Elections Commission decided was another form of early campaigning. The third charge, for which Alpert was assessed one-half point, concerned intent to use copyrighted or trademarked material.

For the hearing, Alpert argued that he had not actively posted or distributed the link to his website. It was available only to USC students who were already on Alpert's campaign staff. In reference to the donations, Alpert stated that no student outside the campaign staff had contributed.

The Constitutional Council affirmed the Elections Commission's assessment of a half-point for intent to use copyrighted or trademarked material. They reversed the other two charges, leaving Alpert with a total penalty of half a point.

Rogers, a third-year management science student, was penalized two points total, one-and-a-half for campaigning and accepting donations prior to the candidates' meeting and one-half point for a social media post about his campaign from a campaign staff member. On Saturday, Jan. 20, Rogers posted on Facebook about his campaign for treasurer. Although it was removed later, the post was public for several hours and received significant attention online.

On Sunday, Jan. 21, Rogers was cited for publishing an active GoFundMe fundraising page. Prior to the candidates' meeting, Rogers accumulated about $100 through the website. The Elections Commission interpreted this as a means of asking for voter support before campaigning had officially begun. The post from a campaign staff member was treated as a separate charge because it reached an independent audience from Rogers' post.

In Rogers' hearing on Wednesday, the Constitutional Council affirmed the Elections Commission's decision to assess two penalty points.

Winley, a third-year international studies student, was penalized one-half of a point for changing his Twitter handle to "@Winley4Prez" on Jan. 21, which the Elections Commission decided was a form of campaigning before the official candidates' meeting. Winley did not file an appeal for the charges.

The full opinions of the Constitutional Council in the Alpert and Stinson hearings will be available later this week.