Mittal/Sasson ticket receives 2% vote reduction, 24-hour suspension due to voter intimidation allegations

Students alleged that members of the Mittal/Sasson campaign were aggressive in their campaign tactics, selecting their ticket on voters’ phones and refusing students to walk past when tabling outside; Mittal and Sasson are appealing the allegations.

A campaign sticker for the Mittal/Sasson ticket on the ground outside Rand Dining Hall

Rachael Perrotta

A campaign sticker for the Mittal/Sasson ticket, as photographed May 23. (Hustler Staff/Rachael Perrotta)

Brina Ratangee and Aaditi Lele

VSG Elections Commission Chair and senior Jordyn Perry sent an email to the student body on March 22 at around 9 a.m. CDT, addressing claims of voter intimidation. The Mittal/Sasson ticket was suspended for 24 hours—until 12 p.m. CDT on March 23—and will receive a 2% vote reduction due to violations. 

The VSG election statutes and rules packet defines voter intimidation as aggressive coercion or threats to solicit votes.

“Voter intimidation can be identified as refusal to let students walk past when campaigning outside, using technology on students’ phones to elicit voting without their consent, watching students’ phones as they vote, touching people’s phones and other technology without their consent, and otherwise aggressive behavior,” Perry further specified in an email to The Hustler.

Perry’s email included a complaint form for students who experienced intimidation, which asks how they were pressured to vote for a particular ticket and to specify which ticket was responsible for the intimidation. Perry stated that the “sheer number” of reports received via the form regarding the Mittal/Sasson ticket confirmed the suspension and was used to calculate the specific vote reduction percentage. 

“It is the opinion of the Elections Commission that the only way to restore fairness in an election in which a ticker illegally obtained votes, is to remove some of the ticket’s votes,” Perry said. “The effects on the election as a result of these decisions is a restoration of the reliability of this process.” 

The Mittal/Sasson ticket appealed the suspension but was denied. The pair is still in the process of appealing the vote reduction punishment, per Mittal. Sophomore Alisha Saluja, Mittal and Sasson’s campaign manager, stated that the VSG advisors have until March 24 at 4 p.m. CDT to make a decision about this appeal.

Saluja said the Mittal/Sasson campaign team is working with VSG advisors to review evidence collected by both tickets regarding voter intimidation. She claimed the 2% vote reduction silences student voices.

“We believe that every single student’s voice should be heard, and every vote should be counted,” Saluja said. “Every single student’s voice is important to us, as it should be to Vanderbilt Student Government as a whole.”

Per Perry, the 2% reduction in votes was calculated as “a result of the significance of the evidence and sheer number of reports of voter intimidation.”

The Mittal/Sasson ticket resumed campaigning on the morning of March 23. In a message to The Hustler, Speaker of the Senate and senior Bryce Collings clarified that they will not be penalized for this apparent breach of the suspension, as it stemmed from a miscommunication on the part of the Elections Commission.

“In a previous email alerting them of the penalty of their violation, language was used that okayed campaigning on the morning of 3/23. This goes against the previous decision of the election commission and the judicial court,” Collings said. “The election commissioner sent an email clarifying the language used and correcting the mistake.”

First-year Sara West said she was intimidated by the Mittal/Sasson campaign near Rand Dining Hall on March 21. 

“I was on my way to Rand for lunch yesterday. Somebody [from the Mittal/Sasson campaign] who was walking in the other direction stopped me and started walking with me,” first-year Sara West said. “They asked if I had voted yet, and I said no, so they told me to pull out my phone ‘right now’ and vote. I said I couldn’t because I was on the way to something, but they kept walking with me and wouldn’t take no for an answer.” 

West said this instance was not the first time she had been pressured to vote by the Mittal/Sasson ticket.

“I’ll enter Commons when people are tabling, and they will yell at me to vote when I’m not even near the table,” West said. “It’s very demanding.”

Sophomore Maggie Dunn said she doesn’t blame either ticket for doing for engaging in voter intimidation. 

“I think we should acknowledge that this is, at least in part, part of the culture of Vanderbilt. How does either candidates ‘enthusiasm,’ ‘intimidation’, or ‘pressure’ differ from the Melodores and improv team members who sit outside Rand egging people on to come to their shows? I’ve felt ten times more uncomfortable in those situations,” Dunn said. “Students have accepted that kind of pressure. Clubs have seen it work. I think they’ve seen that be okay and really didn’t think they were doing anything wrong.”

Perry said reports of voter intimidation informed the Elections Commission’s decision to suspend the Mittal/Sasson campaign, but that the Commission further investigated the allegations to confirm its decision. Perry also declined to give details on the dates and contents of the reports.

“Each campaign was fully briefed about the extent of both the violation and the punishment,” Quaile said. Our campaign continues to rally as we close out this election season.”

VSG’s Non-Partisan Candidate Database (NCD) document lists that Mittal and Sasson were given warnings and a minor campaign violation for listing too many people as campaign staff on their website between March 14 and 15. As a result, they were previously suspended from 12-4 p.m. CDT on March 16. 

The Mittal/Sasson ticket was also given warnings for improper campaign flier placement on March 14 and 15; the Prowell/Quaile ticket was given warnings for the same violation on March 14 and 16. 

Voting ended on March 23 at 4 p.m. CDT.