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Sunday, April 5, 2020

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SGA Supreme Court issues campaign sanctions against #ForTheStudents


| Deaunte Johnson/The Cougar

The SGA Supreme Court met Tuesday evening and issued a campaign sanction against candidates Isaiah Martin and Waseem Sarakb with #ForTheStudents. | Deaunte Johnson/The Cougar

The SGA Supreme Court ruled that #ForTheStudents violated another campaign sanction and their top two candidates will be banned from campaigning on Wednesday from 8-11:30 a.m. 

The decision comes just a day before the 2020 SGA election ends at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday. The court issued its ruling Tuesday night. 

The violation of the SGA Election Code by #ForTheStudents was for its presidential candidate Isaiah Martin having an active link in his bio on Monday to another Instagram page advertising #ForTheStudents when the party was already prohibited from campaigning

Attorney General Cameron Barrett decided late Monday that Complaint 20 filed against #ForTheStudents about the Instagram page and link had merit, issuing a Class D violation, which was taken to the SGA Supreme Court.

The court ruled that the Instagram account was a work product and #ForTheStudents should have taken it down despite #ForTheStudents arguing the owner of the linked Instagram page had left the campaign before the sanctions.

“The fact they lost control of it, that’s their fault and their problem,” said Chief Justice Elliot Kauffman.

Martin and his running mate Waseem Sarakbi will not be allowed to campaign Wednesday from 8-11:30 a.m., but #ForTheStudent’s senate candidates can. 

Kauffman warned the #ForTheStudents representatives that if they had another campaign violation the court would have no choice but to issue a Class D violation and disqualify them. 

The decision to take the violations to court came from indecision on whether presidential candidate Sarakbi should have been disqualified from the election based on violations.

Barrett felt Martin and Sarakbi should not be disqualified from the election, suggesting the court determine a campaign sanction within an 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. time window instead. Barrett continued to say he did not believe #ForTheStudents was intentionally promoting their campaign and that it was most likely an honest mistake.

Martin defended himself and his party by saying linking another Instagram page in a personal Instagram bio does not constitute endorsing the page or its posts.

The attorney general made the argument that the responsibility of the Instagram account is under #ForTheStudents, saying that the party could contact the former campaign manager to not advertise during the sanctioned period.

Sarakbi argued back that because the Instagram page was not actively being endorsed by #ForTheStudents affiliates, it should not be the cause of a Class D violation. By having the link to the campaign’s Instagram in Martin’s Instagram bio, Sarakbi said no violations were being broken.

The sanction explicitly banned referencing all giveaways during the sanction period, which is what the campaign Instagram linked in Martin’s Instagram was doing, Barrett said. 

Justice Mike Floyd argued that the inclusion of the campaign Instagram’s link in Martin’s Instagram bio was not worthy of receiving a Class D violation. 

“I’ve got to be honest, this has got to be the most stupid case this court has ever heard,” Floyd said. 

In their defense stated in Complaint 20, #ForTheStudents claimed social media marketing that occurred during the sanctioned period was posted by a campaign manager who no longer has any affiliation to the #ForTheStudents party.

In his analysis, Barrett believed the #ForTheStudents party should be held accountable for the Instagram marketing and said the party was able to reach out to the account to refrain from campaigning. 

This was the fourth time #ForTheStudents were found violating campaign sanctions, receiving three Class B penalties from three separate complaints last week. #ForTheStudents originally received the sanctions for issues related to branding and marketing.

In response to last weeks’ three violations, #ForTheStudents attempted to file an appeal against Barrett’s ruling that #ForTheStudents affiliates’ Instagram promotions were violating the sanction against campaigning. The appeals were not approved by the SGA Supreme Court and the additional sanctions were still issued from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday.

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