A Facebook campaign message sent to supporters on Wednesday, supposedly by mistake, decided the outcome of the Downtown student government presidential race.
Candidate Andres Cano and his running mate Vaughn Hillyard received the majority of votes in the race, winning 454-321, but were disqualified early Thursday for violating election bylaws.
The win automatically went to sociology and psychology junior Christian Vasquez and journalism freshman Jessica Abercrombie.
The Facebook message sent by the Cano-Hillyard camp inaccurately stated that Downtown Senate candidate Sabrina Banegas was running for the College of Public Programs seat. Banegas was actually running for the College of Nursing and Health Innovation seat. The error came at the end of the Facebook message — a reminder for students to go out and vote — under a senator endorsement list.
All campaign material, including Facebook messages, must be approved by the Elections Committee, according to the Downtown elections code.
“It was an absolute mistake on behalf of our campaign staff,” Cano said.
The Cano-Hillyard camp had already been penalized for violating three bylaws of the elections code, resulting in a total of seven “violation points.” Points are based on the severity of the violation and the accumulation of nine points results in automatic disqualification. The Facebook message pushed the Cano and Vaughn over the nine-point limit to a total of 10 points.
Abby Wischnia, a member of the Downtown Election Committee, said the same inaccurate message sent to Cano-Hillyard supporters Wednesday came to the committee for approval. The mistake was discovered and the message was sent back to the Cano-Hillyard camp. A revised version with Banegas’ correct information was later approved by the committee, she said.
Cano said the approved version was sent to the Facebook support group on Tuesday night but due to a mistake, the message containing the error was mailed to supporters on Wednesday.
Natasia Bongcas, a bachelor of interdisciplinary studies junior, filed a complaint against Cano and Hillyard on Wednesday about the Facebook message error. After an investigation, the committee confirmed a violation was made.
Bongcas, who ran for vice president last year, said she was familiar with the elections code.
“I [filed a complaint] on my own prerogative,” she said.
Bongcas said she did not know Cano already had seven violation points until after her filing.
The Cano-Hillyard camp received notice of the violation and disqualification at 12:18 a.m. Thursday, Cano said.
“It’s so unfortunate that this has happened,” Wischnia said, adding that nothing can be done by the committee because a violation was clearly made.
Cano said he and his running mate plan to appeal the violation. However, according to the Election Committee bylaws, there is no procedure for an appeal to take place.
“[But] we’d be happy to meet with him and hear his case,” Wischnia said.
Cano said his camp intends to push for an appeal because they believe the violation was unfair.
“I think the Downtown students have spoken,” Cano said, after his campaign garnered 58 percent of the vote. “We deserve to have this seat, and we’re committed to making sure that the majority of Downtown students’ voices are heard in this election.”
Vasquez and Abercrombie said they were unaware of the details of the violation.
“It’s unfortunate,” Abercrombie said.
Both said that what happens from here is up to the Elections Committee to decide.
“I’m not sure how it’s going to play out, but Christian and I aren’t going to be involved,” Abercrombie said.
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