Senate approves public apology punishment for Cilento, Vinson
April 20, 2016
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Associated Student Government Senate approved Wednesday night the Rules Committee’s recommendation for president Christina Cilento and executive vice president Macs Vinson to give public apologies as punishment for their election violation.
The punishment requires Cilento to give a written and verbal apology on behalf of herself and perform 10 hours of community service before the end of the quarter. Vinson, on behalf of the campaign, must also give a written and verbal apology. The Rules Committee recommended different punishments for the two leaders because of Cilento’s more direct involvement in receiving the leaks and her initial omission of the second leak in conversations with the election commission and The Daily.
ASG’s election commission ruled Cilento and Vinson’s campaign violated election guidelines by failing to disclose they had received information about the voting margin while polls were still open in this year’s presidential election.
The election commission ruled the campaign’s use of the leaks and decision not to come forward about them constituted SESP sophomore Kevin Corkran, the commission member who leaked the information, as “working on behalf of” Cilento and Vinson’s campaign.
Cilento, a SESP junior, and Vinson, a McCormick junior, narrowly defeated Weinberg junior Joji Syed and Weinberg sophomore Archit Baskaran by 81 votes out of the 4,060 votes cast.
Part of the evidence presented at the Rules Committee hearing included a graph of voting data created by economics Prof. Mark Witte, one of ASG’s advisers.
Witte said the graph was not conclusive as to whether the leak impacted the outcome of the election. The graph was not released publicly as a vote to do so failed in Senate.
“You see significant closing of the margin before the second leak,” Witte told The Daily about the graph without providing it. “It could be whatever Christina was doing was a strong finish strategy whereas whatever Joji did was a strong opening strategy.”
A copy of the graph, obtained by The Daily, confirms Cilento and Vinson started rapidly closing the voting margin just after noon on the last day of the voting period. Witte also said Cilento continued closing the margin “really fast” in the last two hours.
“The graph was not conclusive,” Cilento told The Daily after the meeting. “This leak did not conclusively give us an advantage in the election, and I think something really important to remember is that this was given to us in the last half hour.”
Syed said the past week has been a “trying time for ASG.”
“While I believe the other campaign did indeed have a competitive advantage in the final hours of voting based on all the evidence I have been shown, I ultimately respect Rules’ and Senate’s decision and hope we can move forward from this scandal,” she said in a statement. “I hope future campaigns never receive, mobilize, or lie about information like this again.”
The Rules Committee unanimously agreed to the punishments, which were then approved in a private ballot by Senate with 26 votes for, nine votes against and one abstention. The punishments come just a week after Cilento and Vinson were sworn in.
At the first hearing, the Rules Committee, which currently has eight members including parliamentarian Shelby Reitman, heard arguments from Cilento and Weinberg junior Lauren Thomas, the election commissioner. Both parties had the opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses.
Two members of the Rules Committee did not vote during the hearing. One member recused himself because he worked for Cilento and Vinson’s campaign, and another member was unable to make the hearing.
The Rules Committee hearing was closed to the public, per Cilento’s request. According to ASG Code, either party can request a closed hearing.
Thomas said she was relieved the process was over and thought the punishment was justified.
“We ended up with a fair and just punishment for Christina and Macs,” she said. “Obviously, they committed a violation that should not have gone unnoticed, but I also did not think it was so severe and so serious to warrant removal from office.”
This post was updated at 3 a.m. following Senate’s approval of the Rules Committee’s recommendations.