SGA election candidates brought to trial

Students are present during SGA's trial regarding election violations from both campaigns. Photo credit: Jenny Jacoby

The atmosphere was tense as the two campaign tickets teetered the line of friendship and election opposition in the election trial.

On Wednesday evening, March 2, the “Refresh” and “A U for You” tickets were brought to trial in a packed senate room on three charges of election infractures ranging in legitimacy and stature. After several hours of deliberation the Supreme Court ruled all three charges not liable.

Students are present during SGA's trial regarding election violations from both campaigns.
Students are present during SGA's trial regarding election violations from both campaigns. Photo credit: Jenny Jacoby

“Justice was served tonight,” said Paul Douillon, a junior majoring in criminology and presidential candidate.

The court first heard the trial of the Elections Commission vs. Paul Douillon, accusing Douillon and the “A U for You” ticket of violating Title 5. Section 3-2 of the Chapter IV of the Statutes of the University of Miami Student Government, which clarifies allotted graphic campaign location policies.

A photo submitted to the Elections Commission showed “A U for You” palm card placed under a Lakeside Village door, a minor infraction violation of SG and Housing and Residential Life policy.

“There was literally no evidence to tie my team to that charge. I was shocked that it made it to the court,” Douillon said.

The lack of evidence played a large part in striking down most of the charges.

The remaining two violations were submitted by each campaign team against the other. The first hearing, “Refresh” vs Paul Douillon, accused the “A U for You” campaign team of intimidation in the form of pressuring students into voting.

This was an election fraud claim, meaning a liable verdict would have disqualified the candidates.

“If there was any chance of us being found guilty on this we would be done for and all of our hard work invalidated,” Douillon said.

“Even if I was not held liable, I wanted to make sure that every single person in that room did not leave with a doubt in their mind that we possibly committed that infraction because it’s a total fraud,” Douillon continued.

Refresh presidential candidate and junior business technology major Jamie Williams-Smith presented a photo of Caleb Taylor, the “A U for You” photographer, holding the phone of a student and reportedly pushing buttons after being asked how to vote.

The prosecutors argued that standing over a voter and pushing buttons for them while on a voting site is an overstep of the campaign and grounds for intimidation.

Douillon countered this by providing a video testimony that the student did not cast a vote at all and was simply confused on how to spell a word, as further testified by witness Taylor.

Before doing so, Douillon announced to the room, “I’m sorry it came to this; I have respect for you all.”

Prior to campaign week, both tickets had agreed to keep the process of elections as civil as possible and handle disputes in a friendly, private way.

“We said at the beginning we honestly want to be transparent and talk with each other. But after multiple repeated things and after talking about it once it’s like okay, now you’re taking advantage of us, so that is why I wanted to report this,” Williams said.

The final trial was against the “Refresh” ticket on the grounds of violating Title 3 Section 7 which specifies that only campaign members can work on campaign content.

They were accused of using Ari Mubanda to shoot and edit a campaign video posted to their Instagram account when they were not a member of the campaign team.

“I am genuinely hurt that we had to put them through that, it was not a fun process to go through,” Douillon said.

“But from the very beginning, I tried everything in my power not to allow this to come out and not allow it to get to this. That’s why we were respecting the agreement not to go to court and handle things among each other. However, unfortunately, the other ticket decided to go the other way and we proceeded accordingly,” Douillon continued.

The charge itself was minor, however, the circumstance behind the report provided more insight into the nature of the infracture process.

Williams claimed that after both campaign tickets were informed of filed violations Douillon called her and demanded to know what was filed and said that he would return the sentiment and file anything that he could.

“I don’t think a phone call to me demanding that I tell them something was really appropriate. Neither was saying, me and my team, we’re gonna get together and file them since you’re not telling me,” Williams said.

“I do think this was definitely reactionary,” Williams said.

Douillon claimed this phone call to be ‘a blatant lie’ and ‘not relevant to the charge.’

“​​I really wish I was up there to defend myself on that. I hate that it was even allowed to be said,” Douillon said.

“But, it is what it is, I get it. They were on the defense and so they said what they said,” Douillon continued.

Moreso, these testimonies revealed that violations were being reported and campaign teams changed up until three minutes before the reporting deadline. The question then is whether these infractions were reported with the intent of disqualifying or deplatforming a ticket rather than simply adhering to the campaign process. When asked both Douillon and Williams responded “definitely”.

“It could have been resolved in a private conversation. We did not need to have a trial about someone slipping a piece of paper under someone’s door. We did not need to have a trial about someone teaching someone how to use Engage,” said freshman marketing major Angela Ansah after watching the rulings.

“At the end of day, this is an opportunity to serve students, not an opportunity to get power, destroy people or push others down,” Douillon said.

“We did this because we want to help students and so I really do hope we can work together moving forward,” Douillon continued.