At least 16 students received an email from the Isaiah Carter and Sydney O’Connell student body presidential campaign around midnight Jan. 23, the nature of which could constitute a violation of the 2016 SG Election Code.
According to the code, candidates are allowed to “personally and individually” recruit people to their campaign before the sanctioned campaign period, which began Feb. 15, but the 16 individuals said they did not know Carter personally. The emails were sent three weeks before the sanctioned campaign period, and every email sent was identical and asked for students to join the campaign.
“We advise when people are reaching out to other people that they do know them reasonably well, in the sense that the person they were asking to be an agent or worker would want to give some of their time to work on that campaign because of that existing relationship,” Catrin Watts, chair of the Election Supervisory Board, said.
Business freshman Ida Hishmeh, who received the campaign email, said she does not know Carter personally and did not provide him with her email for campaign purposes.
“That email was kind of unexpected for me,” Hishmeh said. “I didn’t know how they got my email or why I was being emailed.”
When asked to provide the original email, Carter said he could not find it and that it may have been deleted. Carter said in an email statement the campaign cleaned out the account for “convenience and clarity” when he changed running mates in January.
Carter said he acquired the student’s emails through an SG database, to which he has access because of his current position as SG chief of staff. Carter said the database contains more than 1,000 student emails, some of which were acquired when students filled out an SG interest form during freshman orientation. Carter said the campaign email was sent to approximately 200 of those 1,000 students, but he said he is unsure of the exact number.
Watts said a campaign email sent out to at least 16 individuals who said they did not know the sender personally would be a violation of the Election Code. Watts said her statement is not an official ruling of the ESB. Watts said the only way for action to be taken is for an official complaint to be filed with the ESB, which any UT student can do as long as they are not on the Board.
Carter said while he did not send out the emails himself, he urged his campaign staff to do so individually, and he said he is certain his team members followed his guidelines. Carter said both of the other campaigns had access to the database.
“There is a document that we have that all the campaigns have access to of students who signed up and said they were interested in Student Government,” Carter said. “I emailed the students that I recognized their names because I was at every single orientation last summer.”
The students who said they received the campaign email said they do not know Carter personally.
The Blake Burley-Robert Guerra campaign said they do not have access to the email list. The Alejandrina Guzman-Micky Wolf campaign said they have access to the list through their positions in SG but did not use the list for campaign purposes.
“That’s not fair (to use the list for campaign purposes),” Guzman said. “I feel like it’s against the rules to use any resources like that. We know that once the campaign officially started we could totally reach out to other students.”
The ESB released an advisory opinion Feb. 8, clarifying what “personal and individual recruitment” means. Carter said in an email statement that he stopped all pre-campaign period outreach when the opinion was released and that there was nothing “at the time” when his team sent the initial emails that said a candidate had to know a person well to reach out to him or her.
Watts said this advisory opinion did not change any aspect of the election code, but simply clarified it. She said everything stated in the advisory opinion has been part of the election code for the last two election cycles.