Bribery complaints filed, Elections Commission finds no violations
This year’s battle for Student Association president has seen an increase in bribery complaints from last year.
Elections Commission Chair Danielle Haft did not indicate an exact number of complaints. However, she indicated seeing more than last year.
“Last year I would say we really didn’t have a lot,” said Haft. “We had maybe one or two. This year I’ve definitely seen an increase in it.”
At least two of the alleged bribery complaints, according to Haft, pertain to students being pressured into voting for candidates in exchange for food items such as munchkins and candy.
Bribery, according to election guidelines, results in disqualification for any candidate.
No Election Commission rule prohibits candidates and those campaigning for their ticket from passing out candy or food items to students if they are not exchanged for votes.
The commission has not determined any violations based on filed complaints.
Nicholas Pepe, vice presidential candidate running with Langie Cadesca, said that several students have raised concerns regarding bribery pertaining to the Mark Anthony Quinn/Patrick Carroll #UAlbanyUnited ticket.
“It’s ridiculous. It’s been ridiculous. It’s getting even more ridiculous day-by-day,” said Pepe who expressed concerns over the Elections Commission’s handling of the alleged complaints in conjunction with Sen. Dillon Asmus.
“As far as me and my personal campaign, we have not bribed anyone,” said Carroll. “This is a campaign about what we’re going to do to better the lives of the Albany students.”
According to Haft, the Elections Commission has not received sufficient evidence on complaints.
Responding to allegations, Senate Chair Jarret Altilio denied any wrongdoing.
“I’ve been around when munchkins were being passed out,” said Altilio, a supporter of the #UAlbanyUnited ticket. “We’re out engaging the student body, communicating with the student body. Why not?”
Asmus, a senator who did not get reelected on the Cadesca/Pepe ticket, posted a video to Instagram Thursday night. He claimed the video showed Altilio handing out candy in exchange for votes for the Quinn ticket.
“They’re taking advantage of students,” said Asmus. “It’s the Student Association leadership doing this and it’s really unprofessional and it’s really embarrassing to the university standards that we have here.”
Davinder Singh, a junior at the university who recorded the video and sent it to Asmus, said the night before that Altilio and Owen Howard attempted to bribe him into voting for the #UAlbanyUnited ticket.
“I said, ‘no that’s bribery,’ and then they walked away,” said Singh of the alleged incident.
When pressed if he or anyone on #UAlbanyUnited ticket were passing out food items in exchange for votes, Altilio denied such actions.
“I, nor any other person associated with the #UAlbanyUnited campaign, to my knowledge, is associated with bribery of any sort,” he said in a statement.
Candidates cannot be held accountable for actions of supporters, Haft said. “I can say from the Elections Commission standpoint, we can only hold the candidates responsible.”
“I think that video is unclear as to what is going on with the interaction,” said Carroll who dismissed any wrongdoing by those supporting his campaign as a distraction from the issues. “It looks like the video was recorded from a few dozen feet was and he [Altilio] was talking to his constituents.”
Haft indicated that for the Elections Commission to pursue any charges of bribery stemming from video evidence there must be “a clear vision” of an exchange between an item and a vote on a computer or phone.
“As hard as these complaints are to deal with, I would say they’re a good thing for us because they really help the commission grow and kind of improve the way that we run the election,” said Haft.
Speaking to any potential changes to Election Commission rules going forward, Altilio said, “If they want to add more specificity to what is and isn’t allowed, we can definitely have that conversation because there’s apparently a lot of questions about it.”