On Friday, the UNC Board of Elections held a hearing for student body presidential candidate Elizabeth Adkins in regard to the complaints filed by junior Ian Muriuki. The complaint included one financial violation, four false start violations, six technology violations and one location violation.
Muriuki represented himself with assistance from Harry Edwards. The defense included McNair Mitchener and Sarah Leck, both members of the Adkins campaign team.
The BOE has 48 hours after the hearing to make a decision on the complaint.
Muriuki's main complaint was a financial violation concerning a large “E” prop used by Adkins. The plaintiff argued the cost of this prop was not reported at fair market value. Muriuki and his team conducted extensive research about the price of construction for this prop and said it would put the Adkins campaign above the allowed budget of $150.
The claim also included the price of running the Adkins website and reported Facebook ads.
“Speculation isn’t evidence,” Mitchener said.
The Adkins campaign questioned Muriuki on how he obtained the photos of the “E” used as evidence due to the fact that the images were shared in a group chat that only contained, at the time, five candidates running for student body president. The Adkins campaign also questioned the timing, as the events he was reporting occurred over a month ago.
There were four counts of false start violations. The first count was in reference to a Facebook post during the campaign freeze. Leck and Mitchener admitted to this claim and said the post was taken down.
The second count was in reference to another Facebook post by a member of Adkins' campaign team, Brian Fields, sharing a profile written by The Daily Tar Heel on Elizabeth Adkins during the campaign freeze. Adkins’ team argued Fields has been Adkins' friend since they were children, and that the post was made as a friend, not a manager.
“He was supporting a friend with a neutral caption,” Leck said.
The third count of false start involved a Facebook event created by the campaign called “Photos with Elizabeth." The event was scheduled to happen before candidates had certified signatures. Edwards said the purpose of the event was to generate name recognition and support for Adkins, not just to collect signatures as is allowed.
“This was (a) public event created by the Adkins campaign, to which more than 1,500 students were invited, using technology,” Edwards said.
The Adkins team denied this claim and referenced the line in the event page that mentioned collecting signatures. This line was left out by Edwards when he was reading the evidence for Muriuki’s case, a mistake for which he later apologized.
The fourth count of false start was in regards to Adkins taking campaign photographs outside the Old Well prior to declaring her candidacy. While the Student Code states candidates can create campaign materials prior to declaration, Edwards said due to the prominence of location, it garnered name recognition and could be qualified as campaigning.
“This could’ve served as a de facto declaration for candidacy three days prior to declaration,” Edwards said.
Leck denied this charge, stating the members involved were all privately recruited campaign members and the location did not matter.
“The code does not require explicit discretion,” Leck said.
Three of the six technology violations argued that because the campaign used social media for three of the false start violations, they should also be technology violations.
The other three violations said parts of the Adkins campaign Facebook page did not have the required "sponsored by" line needed on all campaign materials.
The Adkins team made the same defense to all three of those claims. They said because the actual campaign page included the proper sponsorship and these were all products of that page, they should not qualify as being improperly sponsored.
The last violation claimed Adkins held campaign meetings in Carroll Hall, which is an academic building, and therefore represents a location violation. The Adkins team denied the claim, saying the team never met in Carroll 111 for campaign meetings and the defense's lack of proof means the allegation should be thrown out completely.
“There needs to be hard information to back these claims to have thorough conversation about this or any deliberation,” Mitchener said.
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