A social science presidential candidate received 10 demerit points last night for a mass email sent to voters.
The candidate, Adam Khimji, sent a campaign email to over 9,800 social science students on Jan. 31, asking recipients to participate in a survey about his platform.
Khimji did not seek approval from Western Technology Services or the University Students' Council.
The elections governance committee was notified the same day by several students and Western Technology Services, Western University's IT department. As they investigated the incident, both social science's Office of the Dean and Western's Office of the Ombudsperson also contacted the EGC, saying that the email violated school policies, not just election by-laws.
Khimji apologized in a statement provided to the Gazette:
"To anyone that I have inconvenienced through my email, I offer my deepest apology. My action was not of ill-intent; my platform promises to increase engagement and I tried doing exactly that. I believed at the time that using a public directory offered by Western to ask my fellow peers on helping shape my platform was an acceptable use of the offered resources; as it would turn out, it is not. To the over 800 students that responded to my survey, I truly want to thank you for allowing me to shape my platform based on YOUR feedback!"
After the 10-point sanction, Khimji's campaign holds 11 demerit points, the maximum before disqualification being 20. He received one point in January for pre-campaigning, after he posted a Snapchat that alluded to his future candidacy before the campaigning period began.
The email violates section 11.3 of By-law 2, which regulates the acceptable nature of campaign materials and advertisements. An ECG report states the email constituted an "unacceptable message" and did not have an opt-out measure. The statement reported that the incident was serious: the EGC disagreed that the email was well-meaning.
"The scope of the violation was extraordinary, as virtually all eligible voters may have received the email," it says. "The degree of the intent was also found to be major, as it showcased negligence to such a degree that it can be reasonably assumed the offense reflects a conscious decision to break the rules."
Khimji collected the emails using Western's online student directory. However, sending the email was a misuse of the service, according to Katherine Carrasco, the USC's chief returning officer.
The sanction coincides with strange activity on Khimji's campaign Facebook page.
The page currently has over 2,600 likes; for comparison, the USC presidential slate PrattChang's page has only 800.
Many of these accounts have no friends, no profile picture, and no distinguishing information besides their name. Another commonality is profiles with around 150 friends and a profile picture, but they were all created in December 2017. The majority of these profiles state that the owners live in either India or South America.
Khimji says he did not manually inflate his page with any bot-accounts, and he has contacted the CRO about it himself. He believes the influx of bots may be due to his use of sponsored Facebook advertisements for the page, which could attract swarms of fake accounts. He added that his sponsored posts had the largest bot presence.
The CRO said that buying likes for a Facebook page does not violate election by-laws, as it is viewed like other paid promotions.
The 10-point sanction occurs two days before voting on Feb. 5 and 6.