Elections Board disqualifies candidates for VP for DEI; Arts & Sciences Senate

Alex Gravlee, Contributing Writer

The Student Government Association Elections Board disqualified Senate candidate Jordan Suttles and vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion candidate Xzarria Peterson from the spring 2023 general election.  

The Board ruled that both the Suttles and Peterson campaigns violated campaign ethics. It also ruled that the Peterson campaign committed election fraud.  

Suttles’ Violation and Response 

The Election Board disqualified Suttles, who was running for a seat representing the College of Arts and Sciences, in a 6-1 vote because his former campaign manager was connected to a burner Instagram account leaving distasteful messages on Executive Vice President-elect Josie Schmitt and President-elect Collier Dobbs’ campaign posts. The burner account led to two complaints of both violation of campaign ethics and election fraud being filed against Suttles.  

The Board held Suttles’ hearings from Feb. 27 to Feb. 28, according to the ruling document, although Suttles said he was only present for the former day at 7:45 p.m. He said the hearing lasted about 10 minutes. 

In the hearing, Suttles argued that his campaign officers represented him for only a week, and that they have no impact in his duties as an SGA senator.  

In his statements to the Elections Board, he said that neither he nor his campaign manager were connected to the Instagram account, but Suttles later confirmed that his former campaign manager was the one who posted the derogatory comments.  

In their ruling, the board said that candidates are responsible for their campaign officers’ actions, saying that these expectations were covered in the candidate informational meetings.  

Suttles said he was notified of his disqualification on March 2 at 10:02 p.m., two days after polls closed. He said he was disheartened because he feels like the 199 people who voted for him out of the 2,448 Arts and Sciences voters are being left out.  

“Im more concerned, not for me, but for the students of the College of Arts and Science,” said Suttles. “Their … voices [are] getting suppressed. They voted me put their trust in me, and obviously, … their votes are just getting thrown out if I get disqualified.”  

Afterwards, Suttles filed an appeal against the board for bias, specifically concerning Scott Sonnier, the Assistant Chair for the Elections Board who was part of the panel for the hearing. Currently, Suttles has not been updated on the status of his appeal.  

Peterson Violation 

The Elections Board unanimously disqualified Xzarria Peterson for campaign ethics violations and election fraud concerning her campaign’s GroupMe. The initial complaint against Peterson only cited election fraud.  

In the GroupMe, Peterson encouraged others to find “athletes” and “other folks who you can easily manipulate” to repost about her campaign and be “annoying” about it. Another member of the group chat, told others to vote for Peterson or else they were “ugly and dirty and big.”  

Robbie Khalil, the complainant, said the messages were a clear attempt at voter fraud and coercion, violating the Capstone Creed and Elections Board Manual. 

According to the board’s ruling, the hearing was held on Feb. 27, one day prior to the election. 

Peterson told the board that all people in the GroupMe were close friends, and it was clear that the messages in the GroupMe were made with a joking intent, saying that their improper grammar and syntax makes it apparent that they were not official campaign statements.  

The board responded by saying that the complainant obviously took issue with the messages, meaning the joking nature of the posts was not universally understood. Additionally, the board mentioned that Peterson removed all people that she and her campaign officers did not share a personal relationship with from the group chat. 

“The Elections Board expects all candidates to conduct themselves in a professional and ethical manner, and furthermore expects all candidates to behave in a manner that supports diversity, equity, and inclusion,” said the board in its ruling.  

“I noticed the discrepancies with the elections board in giving me an additional campaign ethics violation without my knowledge,” Peterson said. “I think that they should all be held accountable for neglecting the time frame in which they respond to violations even though they are students. I also believe there is some potential bias in how they make decisions given the fact that they could see any and everything on social media but I cannot speak for them personally. In the end, I respect their decision wholeheartedly because they were doing what they were supposed to do.”