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UGA students campaign in Tate Plaza on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021 ahead of SGA elections in Athens, Georgia. Bridge, Belong and Voice are the three tickets running, and voting begins Monday, Feb. 22, 2021. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; taylormckenzieg@gmail.com)

Saturday night, the Student Government Association Elections Committee unanimously voted to sanction the Belong executive ticket for violating the Elections Code. The decision followed a Zoom disciplinary meeting regularly punctuated by friendly pleasantries and technical difficulties.

This marks the Belong ticket’s third sanction of the election season. The most recent sanction came as a result of a complaint filed by junior Christian Carlow, chief counsel for the Voice executive ticket. The complaint contained both photographic and video evidence the Elections Committee determined to prove that members of the Belong staff had repeatedly violated the SGA Elections Code.

After hearing from both the Voice and Belong executive ticket’s counsel and witnesses in a two-hour long meeting, the Elections Committee unanimously agreed in a closed session that Belong had violated section 707.4p of the SGA Elections Code. That section of the code stipulates that no more than two individuals per campaign may be present at a tabling location “at any one time.” It was added to the code as part of the SGA Election Committee’s COVID-19 campaign precautions.

During the hearing, SGA attorney general and senior Jack Henry Decker referenced a meeting in January where the committee went over COVID-19 guidelines with the tickets. The Red & Black also obtained an email sent by Decker to the executive tickets on Feb. 16 that reiterated the guidelines and urged candidates and their teams to pay special attention to COVID protocols.

“Please ensure that your campaigns are always following the Elections Code,” Decker said in the email. “COVID safety protocols are particularly important. … The public health of our campus is one area in which our Committee has no hesitation to act with conviction.”

The official sanction notice handed down by the Elections Committee stated that both the January meeting and the aforementioned email left no room, “for blatant violations the likes of which were presented as evidence to take place.”

Since this is the Belong ticket’s third sanction, the Election Code mandates that the campaign be put on automatic probation. The Elections Committee also instituted a ban on campaigning in any form for members of the Belong staff beginning Sunday at 11:59 p.m. until Monday, February 22nd at 7 p.m.

“Zero campaigning of any sort on behalf of the Belong ticket is allowed during this time. Violation of this remedy may result in a fourth sanction, resulting in immediate halting of campaigning for the remainder of the time available,” the official sanction notice said.