Student Senator Accused of Unfair Campaigning Practices

By Jacqueline Jedrych 

This year’s freshmen senators of Catholic University’s Student Government Association (SGA), elected this fall, are Maura Schlee and Lucas Vigil. After this year’s election, a complaint was filed with Vice President Kaitlin Shanahan regarding illicit campaign practices by Senator Vigil.

The official grievance, filed by Juan Carlos Mora, claims that the unfair campaigning practices constitute fraud against the other candidates who were at a disadvantage. It alleges that Vigil’s campaigning officially began too early, which was an unfair advantage. Since the other candidates did not have the same timeline, he believed the practices were grounds to remove him from the ballot, invalidating his election. Perspective candidates attended a mandatory meeting where they were all made aware of the rules regarding when campaigning could open.

“Both the Senator-elect and the candidate attended the aforementioned meeting and received specific, unequivocal with respect to the [Election Rules and Guidelines], specifically campaigning,” reads the complaint. “Communication of the ERGC was issued orally and in-written format.” 

About an hour after this meeting, a video was posted to Vigil’s public Instagram story. Along with his campaign partner, John Desorti, Vigil announced his bid for office and asked voters to come out on election day, September 18th. Three days later, a separate Instagram page for the campaign was created, @ljforsenate2023, that’s bio included their campaign slogan: “VIGILizing the future, CUA 2023 Senate,” and tags to their personal Instagrams. This account followed 112 accounts although the confirmation to begin campaigning was not sent out until September 11.   

The rules, issued both orally and in writing at the meeting, include limitations on when, where, and how early a candidate for Senate can begin campaigning. Section 2, Clause 2 states, “Upon receipt of the notice of eligibility, the campaign cycle will begin, and candidates may begin to publicly advertise.”

Mora approached Shanahan, wondering whether online campaigns could begin on the day of the meeting. 

“I asked her, ‘am I allowed to campaign online as of today?’ and she said no,” said Mora. “In my meeting with the Vice President… she recalled [that conversation].”

Additionally, all candidates seeking to have their name put on the ballot had to confirm that they had received a copy of and would abide by the rules. Each candidate had to “understand that any violation of these rules will result in consequences decided on by the Board of Elections, which may include removal from the ballot.” 

Vigil holds that he never violated the rules. “I only officially started campaigning once I received permission from the Vice President by announcing it on social media the next day,” he claims, “I campaign[ed] through social media, flyers and through word-of-mouth. I did talk about my intention to run but never said I was running.” 

Shanahan said that because the Election Board was dissolved, there was nothing that could be done. SGA leadership has also not acted on the matter. 

“[SGA needs to] address this directly,” said Mora. “We need to keep our elected officials accountable to the rules that they’ve created, because if our own elected officials aren’t following the rules that they create, why should we?” 

President Brendan Dillon and Vice President Kaitlin Shanahan were reached out to regarding the relevancy of the timing of the election in relationship to the complaint that was made.

“The election being over is relevant.” Shanahan said. “The Election Rules apply to the election, and the Board of Elections is the body that reviews the election rules.”

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