Peterson responds to election fraud complaint over GroupMe messages shared on Yik Yak

Xzarria Peterson, a candidate for SGA vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, received a complaint of election fraud after messages from her campaign GroupMe, which she said were taken out of context, were shared on the anonymous message board Yik Yak on Tuesday night.  

In the initial screenshot, she said, “if you know athletes, other folks who you can easily manipulate into reposting [campaign materials]: DO IT.” After sending that message, she added: “and be ridiculously annoying about it.”  

A member of the GroupMe who is not part of Peterson’s Top Five said in response to Peterson’s messages: “YESSSS I’ll be like post this or ur ugly and dirty and big,” followed by, “and then they’ll do it because they want to be skinny and petite and tiny and cute.” 

Peterson said that the sender “immediately replied underneath [where the original screenshot cuts off] that he was ‘unserious and that he is sorry.’”  

Peterson provided screenshots that feature the sender saying “I’m so unserious I’m sorry [crying face emoji]” to corroborate this. A different member of the GroupMe replied “sure you are [neutral face emoji].” 

The Crimson White has redacted the names of people in the messages who aren’t members of Peterson’s Top Five for privacy reasons. Further screenshots provided by the Peterson campaign include time stamps that indicate the messages were sent on Feb. 19, which is prior to the official start of the campaign period on Feb. 20 at 9 a.m. It is unclear if instances of election fraud are strictly limited to the campaign period.  

According to Peterson, “nothing [she] said was incriminating to begin with” and the messages were “strictly a joke.” 

“The screenshots going around do not show the full conversation,” Peterson said. “20 to 30 minutes after [the original comments Peterson made], I sent the Elections Manual and said, ‘please don’t actually do that.’ I was being very unserious. And that’s not included in the screenshot that has been going around.” 

Peterson sent a link to the Elections Manual at 5:04 p.m. – a little over an hour after the initial message – on Feb. 19, and said “alright, please glance over the elections manual to see what can and can’t be done in terms of campaigning.”  

The messages generated a complaint for election fraud filed by Robbie Khalil, a UA student who did not respond to request for comment. Election fraud is classified as a major violation, which is defined as an act that is “flagrant or intentional and directly impact[s] the outcome of the election.” Conviction of a major violation would allow the Elections Board to consider disqualifying Peterson. 

The Elections Board notified Peterson of the complaint on the night of Feb. 21. The message she received from the Elections Board is pictured below.  


Peterson said the GroupMe was originally intended to be private, although she shared the link to join the GroupMe on her Instagram story on Feb. 20 at 4:31 p.m. She said users who requested to join the group through the link had to be accepted by Peterson or members of her campaign team in order to view the GroupMe. 

“It was just supposed to be me, a few members of my Top Five, and close friends that said they would help me,” Peterson said. Peterson said that it is possible that one of the people who joined the chat after she posted the link was responsible for posting the messages on Yik Yak, but The Crimson White was unable to confirm this. 

“These comments were not meant to be taken out of context like this,” Peterson said. “I sincerely mean when I say this was a joke, especially before the campaign started, all that was meant to be taken as a joke and every member of my team knows that we were not encouraging any type of fraudulent behavior during the campaign week.” 

The Elections Board did not respond to a request for comment sent on Feb. 22. As of publication, the Elections Board has yet to issue a ruling on the complaint filed against Peterson.