Last year’s ASUCI elections were marred by scandal; involving housing code violations, campaign guideline violations and candidate disqualifications to boot. This year, ASUCI’s elections committee is taking the drama out of ASUCI elections.
The committee set out to increase clarity in the elections code, improve transparency and make it easier for candidates to apply for positions.
“This year, everything is online,” said Kelly Chew, ASUCI elections commissioner. “You can edit your profile, your declaration of candidacy, view the [UC Irvine] principles of community and your photo, all up to March 13. And they’re all released on the same day so no one gets their application in earlier than someone else.”
Chew was inspired to effect change by the abuse-speckled history of ASUCI elections.
“[A presidential candidate] two years ago, told students in his visions course that they would be forced to help him in his campaign, and they still didn’t come forward even with complete anonymity,” Chew said.
“We take the pledge situation very seriously because this involves threatening students. These students were threatened with punishments or with getting kicked out of their fraternity if they said anything about what had happened,” Chew said.
While campaign violation trends run several years back, last year’s violations spurred changes in the election process to better prevent violations. Then-second-year political science major Kevin Kaveh, who was running for president, was disqualified for soliciting votes in student housing areas, while then-third-year political science major Tiffany Go, who was running for vice president of student services, was disqualified for allegedly assisting in one instance of Kaveh’s violation of procedures. Go was later acquitted and instated as vice president of student services.
This year, candidates are not allowed to come within 50 yards of computer labs. Employees and frequent users of the computer lab have already been informed that they must report any campaign activity that violates the new Elections Code.
The committee has decided to delete stipulations regarding polling locations, since nearly every student has a personal laptop or is able to use the computer lab for voting purposes.
Finally, candidates are strictly responsible for every person who supports their campaign. They have been instructed that any illicit activity caused by a person in support of their campaign will be brought back to the candidate themselves.
“I was pretty appalled by the results of the last election. We shouldn’t have to tell you how to behave during an election. There are some things that are just [a] given,” Chew said.
The changes have come just in time to reign in an unprecedented number of candidates running for executive offices. There are 45 candidates in total, with seven candidates for ASUCI president alone.
UCI’s current commander in chief, Megan Braun, is among the seven, returning for another shot at the title. Braun stated that the ASUCI‘s skyrocketing number of candidates has made the road to returning to office difficult.
“Last year, three executive seats went unopposed, but with over 40 candidates this year everything is much more intense. Candidates are competing for poster space on Ring Road, campaign staffs and time at club meetings, and not to mention votes,” Braun said.
The sharp increase in candidates has been attributed to this year’s campus events put on by ASUCI, consequent visibility on campus, a much more active promotion of elections, and finally, the ease of use of the new application system.
While the past years’ events have earned blame for the candidates, Chew remarks that it may just be students getting swept up in the spirit of the election.
“It’s really the nature of the election. Some people will take a year of planning, and spend in excess of one thousand dollars on their campaign. Time, dedication and emotion gets involved, so they really become desperate,” Chew said.
The Elections Committee has done its job in creating the framework for a violation-free election. However, at this point, the elections are in the hands of the candidates as this year’s increased competition puts added pressure on their time, wallets and judgment.
“I just want a clean election. I hope they exercise their best judgment,” Chew said.
ASUCI candidate forum will take place twice this year; April 7 at 12 p.m. in the Student Center Plaza, and April 8 at 5 p.m. in Crystal Cove Auditorium.