The Daily Gamecock

Elections Commission doles out violation points, DiBona and Carzon plan to appeal

The Student Government Elections Commission ruled Monday night against presidential candidate Tommy DiBona and vice presidential candidate Madi Carzon, a decision DiBona said they're definitely planning to appeal to the Constitutional Council. They each received five points, half of the 10 a campaign can be earn before removal, for violating the Student Government election code prohibiting campaign rallies or special events during the first week of campaigning. 

The commission will release an explanation of the decision within 48 hours of the hearing.

DiBona and Carzon hosted an event together at Breakers Live the night of Feb. 13, the same night that campaigning of any sort was first permitted.

Campaign advisor Mark Bonnoitt, speaking on behalf of DiBona and Carzon at the Monday night hearing, argued that the event wasn't affiliated with DiBona and Carzon's campaign and was simply a group of students going out together.

A private Facebook event titled "Club Going Up on a Tuesday!" with over 400 people invited originally had the description "Come celebrate some exciting news with drink deals, good friends, and great music!" The description was changed before the event took place, DiBona said, to clarify that the actual purpose was to celebrate Mardi Gras so that there would be no question about whether it was related to the campaign.

DiBona served on the Elections Commission during the 2016-17 school year as both the debate chair and strategy and implementation chair.

"I was very well-versed in the codes last year," he said. "Therefore the reasoning for me finding this ruling to be very, very inaccurate."

Under the election codes, no campaigning or announcement of candidacy is allowed before the end of the candidate's meeting, or 9 p.m., on Feb. 13. That time was also the time listed as the start of the event at Breakers. DiBona couldn't say exactly when the Facebook event was created.

Most of Violations Chair Yash Gudimani's questions centered on the details of the Facebook event and the timeline surrounding the night of Feb. 13. Additional evidence included a screenshot of a Snapchat conversation that references a "kickoff party." Commissioner Erin Brown had Bonnoitt confirm the presence or absence of all official staffers, as listed in the campaign filing materials, at the Breakers event, as well as whether the staffers were underage.

The SG Elections Commission heard two other violations at the hearing. Vice presidential candidate Nick Hooks and treasurer candidate Wilfredo Anderson were both accused of placing posters in Jones without following the poster guidelines in the election codes.

Hooks, present at the hearing, said that there was a miscommunication in his staff that has since been rectified and that all non-compliant posters had been taken down.

A representative for the Anderson campaign read from a prepared statement.

"Upon looking at the physical violation, it is evident that the filer couldn’t even spell Wilfredo’s name correctly, spelling it first name 'Wil' last name 'Fred,' which shows complete disrespect to Wilfredo as a candidate and the University of South Carolina Student Government electoral process," she said. "How do you report a candidate for a flyer violation and spell his name wrong when his name is clearly printed on the flyer?"

The commission ruled that both Hooks and Anderson were in violation, but didn't assign their campaigns any points for the violations. After the Tuesday night executive candidate debate, DiBona and Carzon face another hearing for a different violation allegation.