The candidate with the most votes in the race for the University of Connecticut’s undergraduate representative on the Board of Trustees was disqualified for filing an inaccurate campaign finance statement. She is now appealing based on the grounds that she never fulfilled her offer made during the voting period to enter voters in a raffle for a UConn Bookstore gift card.
On the second day of voting, trustee candidate Christine Savino sent an email to her mailing list offering them entry into a raffle for a $50 UConn Bookstore gift card if they sent her confirmation that they voted and a sentence about their vision for UConn.
“I am excited to help students and would also like to hear about you [sic] ideas and concerns so that we can build a more unified and efficient UConn!” Savino wrote in the March 2 email. “Therefore, if you send me a one sentence or more message about this with a screenshot of your vote verification, you will be in the drawing for a $50 gift card at the UConn Bookstore to help cover academic expenses! The winner will be announced next week!”
Savino received 43 percent of the votes cast. The Student Trustee Election Committee (STEC) disqualified Savino because she never disclosed the purchase of the gift card on her Campaign Finance Statement as candidates were required, STEC Chairperson Christine M. Wilson said. If Savino remains disqualified, the second-place candidate George P. Wang will be trustee-elect.
Savino has appealed the decision, saying she never bought the gift card and therefore did not spend any money she did not report to STEC.
“I ended up not buying the gift card and not going through with it, so I could not put it down as an expense,” Savino wrote in an email on Sunday. “STEC believed that it was an expense but it was unaware that I had changed my mind after the email was sent. Thus, no buying ever occurred, that's what the appeal was regarding.”
According to Wilson, it would not be considered against any of STEC's rules to enter confirmed voters in a raffle for a $50 gift card if the candidate did buy the gift card, report it to STEC and hold the raffle. Savino was only disqualified because STEC thought she had not reported purchasing the gift card on her Campaign Finance Statement.
Wilson also said that Savino’s Campaign Finance Statement was not being investigated for any other inaccuracies.
Savino said she only received responses from two people (both of whom she says were friends of hers) and that’s why she didn’t follow through on the raffle.
Previous emails sent by Savino show that her mailing list has included 1,590 different email addresses. After receiving an emailed question, she declined to say how many people received the raffle email and would only say that it was fewer than 1,590.
Following Daily Campus requests, candidates Wang and Wojtyna released their campaign finance statements. Savino declined, saying she would after the case was resolved.
Savino said the raffle was not buy votes and was instead intended merely to generate interest in the election.
“I did it in a way that is acceptable to the political community and clearly adhered to Trustee election rules,” Savino wrote in an email. “It was logistically patron clientelism, but informally I was trying to have students to exercise their right to vote. I was also trying to get students to tell me their concerns, which you can see in the email. Typically, they do not voice them and can actually be scared to do so. Only 4,000/22,000 (approximately) students vote each year, and that number has decreased in recent years. Students tend to not understand the importance of voting and thus do not vote, which is why I was concerned.”
Savino’s appeal goes to Executive Secretary Rachel Rubin of the Board of Trustees, according to another email sent to the trustee candidates. Rubin’s decision will be final, but no date has been given.
Christopher McDermott is the news editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.