Last Saturday, on the last day of the 2015 Spring College Council (CC) elections, co-presidents elect Teddy Cohan ’16 and Meghana Vunnamadala ’16 made a last-minute campaign push, in which they claimed to have real-time inside election information. However, they did not actually have access to this classified information.
“If you look into the way the ballots are created in BigPulse, actually no one has access to poll information until the poll is closed,” Vunnamadala said. Although in an all-campus email, Erica Moszkowski ’15 explained that as Elections Administrator, she did have access to poll information, she confirmed a statement she had made to the Record on Sunday that Cohan and Vunnamadala did not have the information early.
Vunnamadala and Cohan confirmed to the Record that they sent out multiple text messages on Saturday claiming the race was tight, though they initially said that those claims were purely speculative. “We had no access to information,” Cohan said. “The whole goal of everything we were doing was to just to make sure that people voted. We were just saying that the election was going to be close. It seemed like a lot of people were voting for Grant [Johnson ’17] and we wanted to make sure that everyone who wanted to vote for us voted … We had no idea whether we were winning or losing.” Vunnamadala added, “We said we might be losing, the polls were tight. It was all speculation.”
However, Vunnamadala later confirmed to the Record that she sent out a text message on Saturday to multiple people that explicitly claimed that she and Cohan had knowledge of election results. Vunnamadala confirmed that she sent a text that read: “I’m not supposed to know this so don’t tell people but teddy and I are losing rn.”
Vunnamadala justified the push, saying, “We were trying to get as many people to vote as possible and know that the strategy of pretending like you’re losing is one of the most effective ways to get people to vote.” Cohan and Vunnamadala were surprised, however, when people thought that they had inside information. “That’s not at all what we were trying to say,” Cohan said.
Their opponent, Johnson, believes that Cohan and Vunnamadala did not have inside information. “I don’t think they did, but they definitely made it sound like they did,” Johnson said. “I know they made it sound like that, but I think that was more of just a tactical thing rather than them having inside information. I think it was unfair how they did that though.”
Cohan and Vunnamadala believe their tactics did not affect the election and thus should not be an issue. “And I think that the results show that it wasn’t that close,” Cohan said. “It wasn’t necessarily a close election. It’s not like we got 550 votes the final hour or anything like that. That’s why I’m so confused why this is an issue.”
The body in charge of administering the election is the Election Supervisory Committee, which is made up of “the officers of the outgoing Council not seeking election,” according to the CC bylaws Article VIII, Section 1 a. The committee is chaired by one of the outgoing Co-Presidents or the President as state in Article VIII, Section 1 b.
In Article VIII, Section 3 d., the bylaws state that violations of campaign rules include “acts of bad faith (such as the destruction of campaign materials, deliberate misinformation etc.).” In the case of one or multiple violations, the committee has the power to suspend campaigning time, disqualify candidates or recommend the annulment of an election to CC. If the committee recommends an annulment, an emergency meeting would be called and a two-thirds majority of full council would be needed to declare the elections invalid, forcing a re-election. Full council is also responsible for deciding on appeals if the committee disqualifies a candidate and the candidate appeals.
This article was originally published online on March 2, 2015. It was updated on March 3, 2015 to adjust for new developments.