All five candidates for the office of Yale College Council president will be penalized for various violations of campaign rules and regulations, the YCC Election Committee decided Monday night.
In addition to the YCC presidential hopefuls, four other contenders were cited for violations of election rules. Presidential candidate Wells O’Byrne ’07 and Undergraduate Organizations Funding Committee chair candidate Hassan Siddiq ’08 were penalized for serious infractions concerning the misuse of e-mail, while most of the other transgressors were cited for less problematic violations of postering protocol, YCC Vice President Marissa Brittenham ’07 said.
The number of candidates penalized for violations of election rules increased this year because the Election Committee is thoroughly investigating and cracking down on campaign infractions, Brittenham said.
“We’re paying a lot of attention to violations this year,” she said.
O’Byrne was cited for using the sustainable food petition e-mail list he created earlier this year to send approximately 1,000 e-mails to people he does not personally know but who “agreed to be contacted about the [Yale] Sustainable Food Project,” Brittenham said. The Election Committee has revoked O’Byrne’s e-mail privileges for the remainder of the election, and will consider revoking O’Byrne’s candidacy if further violations are reported, she said. O’Byrne also displayed more than the permitted number of table tents in campus dining halls, and was penalized with the loss of 200 table tents from the approved maximum.
O’Byrne, who filed an appeal against the charges on Monday night, said he is confused about the alleged e-mail abuse because he said he individually contacted “acquaintances” with whom he had much correspondence in the past. Under campaign regulations, it is illegal for candidates to e-mail students they do not know personally.
“Definitions [of rules] need to be made more clear because they are wishy-washy now and easily lead to confusion,” O’Byrne said. “I’m confused, because I have heard from several people that they’ve gotten mass e-mails from other presidential candidates that they do not know even before when we were even allowed to e-mail close friends.”
Presidential candidate Larry Wise ’07 was cited on several counts of illegal postering, including putting up several posters without the compulsory YCC stamps and using his $60 innovative spending budget — which is set aside for non-flyer and table tent spending — to make posters. He was forced to surrender 50 unstamped posters and forbidden from making any new posters for the remainder of the campaign period. Wise was also cited for not having disclaimers in his e-mails to garner support.
Wise said he turned himself in for the violations and that he used “innovative spending” on handouts, which were put up on students’ doors — thus qualifying as posters — without his knowledge.
“The election rules are too dense,” he said.
Emery Choi ’07, another presidential candidate, was cited because one of his supporters unintentionally sent out an early unsolicited endorsement e-mail. The Elections Committee also received complaints about a facebook.com group on behalf of Choi that was set up before the campaign period. In order to remedy the violations, Choi had to inform all those who received the early e-mail that it was an unintentional mistake and take down his facebook.com group.
Presidential contender Bill Fishel ’08 was cited for postering illegally inside of dormitory entryways and was compelled to take his posters down.
Meanwhile, Stephen “RSteve” Fedele ’07, the final presidential hopeful, was cited for having 101 signatures on his candidacy petition, one more than the maximum number of signatures allowed, and as a result had $2 deducted from his innovative fund. Fedele was the only presidential candidate not cited for either postering or table tent violations.
Siddiq had $5 deducted from his innovative spending budget for sending an unauthorized e-mail to the Trumbull College panlist. His e-mail privileges have been revoked for the remainder of the campaign period and the committee will consider revoking his candidacy if they receive further notice that he has sent out campaign-related e-mails.
Siddiq said the e-mail sent to the panlist was an “honest mistake” that happened “accidentally.”
“It was never meant to be sent, and the TCC has officially forgiven me for this mistake,” he said.
UOFC chair candidate Ned Mitchell ’09 was cited for false advertising of endorsements. Mitchell was endorsed by the Asian American Students Association but wrongly claimed that he had been endorsed by several cultural groups under the umbrella organization, though one of these organizations endorsed his opponent Siddiq. He was compelled to retract the mistaken endorsement. Mitchell was also cited for illegal postering in dormitory entryways.
Yale Student Activities Committee chair candidate Mike Lehmann ’08 was also penalized $5 for illegal panlist use, and his opponent, Karla Martinez ’08, was cited for illegal entryway postering.
YCC President Steven Syverud ’06 urged candidates to play by the rules.
“It’s a student government election,” he said. “It’s really important that people keep their perspectives and remember that they are not running for Congress.”
Brittenham said she is not sure how much impact these violations will have on the election outcome.
“A lot of students have probably already voted before these issues came up,” she said. “But it is important for candidates to heed all the complaints and follow election guidelines.”
Last year, three of the four presidential candidates and other candidates were issued penalties or warnings. Syverud and YCC Secretary Kasdin Miller ’07 were penalized with a deduction in their campaign spending limits for submitting their statements of candidacy late. Last year, presidential candidate Alan Kennedy-Shaffer ’06 was also penalized by having his campaign spending limit halved for e-mailing 798 students listed as friends on facebook.com to solicit campaign support. Presidential candidate R. David Edelman ’07 and vice-presidential candidate Ryan Atlas ’07 were also issued warnings for minor violations last year.
All election rule violations were posted on YaleStation last night. Polls will close at 9 p.m. this evening.