Braun Acquitted, Patel and Vo Disqualified

Of the 13 Elections Commission opinions delivered, four have been contested and ruled by the Judicial Board. The final rulings by the Judicial Board have reversed the two contested commission opinions, including reversing presidential candidate Megan Braun’s disqualification, and upheld two of the Elections Commission’s opinions, including the disqualification of executive vice presidential candidate Anush Patel,

The Elections Commission released its first batch of 10 opinions on Wednesday, May 6 and released the other three this past week. Affected parties have the opportunity to file a complaint within 48 hours of the release of the Elections Commission ruling. These complaints contest the ruling of the Elections Commission and affected parties cannot present new evidence.

The Judicial Board presides over hearings for the complaints in which both parties present their sides of the argument. The Judicial Board consists of six student justices, of which five were present for both of Patel’s hearings and Braun’s hearing, which satisfied the requirement of quorum (four members present).

Elections Commission vs. Braun
Decision: Overturned
Result: Braun eligible for election

The most high-profile complaint was against presidential candidate Braun, who was disqualified in the Elections Commission’s opinion for accepting over $75 in donations from a single organization, specifically in the form of a folding table, a canopy and an extension cord that Braun had listed as a “borrowed” material but the Elections Code considered a “donated” material.

The Judicial Board reversed the Elections Commission ruling, finding the definition of “borrowing” in the Elections Code to be too ambiguously worded and that “[article XVII] cannot account for whether or not ‘borrowing’ falls under a ‘donation’ or ‘services rendered.’ ” Services rendered are not considered donations.

The Judicial Board also found Braun to have performed due diligence in asking the appropriate authority, in this case Elections Commissioner Kelli Chew, numerous times about whether her materials would be considered donated or borrowed, but Chew did not inform Braun of the proper definition before Braun submitted her budget. The Judicial Board found fault with Chew and not Braun.

In its decision to reverse the disqualification, the Judicial Board also considered Braun’s claim of an unfair evidentiary hearing. The Judicial Board noted that Braun was notified of the hearing only hours before it was to be held and was not provided with a written or detailed complaint about the charges levied against her.

Furthermore, the Judicial Board found fault with the Elections Commission voting twice on Braun’s case. The first vote of the commission, occurring after Braun’s evidentiary hearing, acquitted her of the charges and consisted of Chew and the three other members of the commission but not Executive Vice President Kyle Olney, also a member. Although the commission had quorum (majority) and had the authority to vote on the issue, a second vote was taken, this time with Olney in attendance.

Olney held that, as chair of the Elections Commission, he should have been present for the first ruling despite being absent for the evidentiary hearing.

Chew posited that Olney held another vote to change the outcome.

“I feel my deputy commissioners’ votes were affected in the second voting when Kyle Olney was [present]. He had pretty much threatened my deputy commissioners’ jobs,” Chew said during the hearing.

“Because we quoted Robert’s Rules [of Order] and said he could not discount our votes, he said that our votes did not count at all because he hadn’t done any paperwork admitting us into our positions and had been holding it for the last month so that we would not get paid or recognized for our votes. After that my deputy commissioners re-voted [differently],” Chew said.

Chew presented evidence she had collected to the board with a form for a personnel complaint listing dated incidents of what she claims was similar intimidating behavior. Citing an incident on Thursday, April 30 that is also mentioned in the minutes of the Elections Commission meeting, the document states that Olney said, “You don’t even officially have these positions, so you don’t have a vote. Technically I’m the only one with a legitimate vote right now.”

Braun submitted three affidavits to the Judicial Board describing her relationship with Olney, which she acknowledged as grounds for his bias against her. Braun responded in the affirmative to a question by Associate Justice Jeremy Dircks as to whether she felt the relationship affected the fairness of the hearing. The relationship, Braun said, was familiar to other members of ASUCI, including legislative council members Shane Jagow, Bryan Sloane and Amy Maguire, who each attended the hearing.

Olney maintained that, while his relationship with Braun was complicated, he could explain the context behind each affidavit.

“This is all anecdotal and it’s all hearsay in my opinion, and frankly, the allegation of unfairness notwithstanding … this just gets back to the fact that it’s unreasonable to say that I would do anything for express political reasons,” Olney said. “It’s sad to me that this has devolved into character assassination.”

Regardless, the Judicial Board’s decision did not concern the allegations of bias.

“It came up in our discussions but wasn’t the focus of what our rulings were based on,” said Judicial Board Chair Allen Haroutounian. “That’s why we looked at specifically [the Elections Code] and Megan’s numerous attempts to follow up with the elections commissioner [and] the elections commissioner’s lack of trying to get answers to the candidates.”

“Sure, the bias was part of it and it was a pretty heated hearing, but we tried to stay clear from that and look through it in a more objective opinion,” Haroutounian said.

Thus acquitted, Braun won the presidential election with 2356 votes out of 6146.

Shane Jagow vs. Elections Commission
Decision: Overturned
Result: Andrew Vo Disqualified

During the 2009 Elections Week, Andrew Vo, candidate for Academic Affairs vice president, allowed an unregistered endorsement from Care-a-Thon to be published on his Web site.

Shane Jagow, also a candidate for Academic Affairs vice president, submitted a complaint and the Elections Commission ruled in favor of Vo in Shane vs. Vo on the grounds that no falsification of the endorsement was committed.

On Thursday evening, Jagow brought the case to the attention of the judicial board, which overturned Shane vs. Vo, disqualifying Vo on the grounds that he did not follow the rules stipulated in the Elections Code.

According to evidence submitted by Jagow, during the hearing, the domain for Vo’s candidate Web site was purchased on March 23. Jagow stated that he had been able to access the Web site prior to March 29.

Vo confirmed that his candidate Facebook group had publicized his Web site on March 29, and that his endorsement form had been approved on March 31.

Judicial Board Chief Justice Allen Haroutounian cited a different focus in the consideration of the case.

While the Elections Commission ruled on the basis of non-falsification, the Judicial Board felt that respecting the Elections Code and following the appropriate timeline was more important.

“It wasn’t the fact that it was falsified. We knew that Care-a-Thon would endorse him … It was the fact that he did not submit the candidate endorsement form on time. His Web site was up before April 1 and it wasn’t supposed to be that way,” Haroutounian said.

As an Academic Affairs vice presidential candidate, Vo received the most votes at 1,927. At the second-highest vote tally of 922, Christian Medero will fill next year’s Academic Affairs vice presidential seat.

Patel vs. Ballot
Decision: Upheld
Result: No re-election required

During Elections Week, executive vice presidential candidate, Anush Patel submitted a complaint against the ballot. According to the Elections Code, the candidates on the ballot must be placed in a random order by the Network and Academic Computing Services (NACS). Patel argued that this was not the case.

In Patel vs. Ballot, the Elections Commission ruled that the ballot was not compromised by the lack of randomization as the ballot was not tampered with and the candidates were placed on the ballot in the order their applications were received.

During the hearing, Aaron Echols, Information Technology representative for ASUCI stated that the lack of randomization was due to an error in communication with NACS.

“NACS doesn’t like that it states in our code that they have to randomize the ballot … we were supposed to randomize it, but we didn’t know,” Echols said.

Elections Commissioner Kelly Chew stated that the problem would be raised in a Legislative Council meeting to ensure that ASUCI personnel properly randomize ballots in the future.

The Judicial Board ruled that no re-election was deemed necessary on the grounds that it would not resolve the issues at hand.

“We are already in week eight and we thought that the remedy [Patel] was seeking would cause more harm than good to the candidates,” said Chief Justice Allen Haroutounian.

The decision did not affect the outcome of the elections, but will affect next year’s ballot order.

Patel vs. Elections Commission
Decision: Upheld
Result: Anush disqualified

Patel’s second hearing regarded his disqualification by the Elections Commission due to his violation of the University Electronic Communication Policy by the mass e-mail Patel sent Sunday, April 13 informing students that voting, followed by a submission of proof of voting to Patel, would enter them into a raffle for a pair of tickets to a Los Angeles Lakers basketball playoff game.

In its ruling, the Elections Commission stated that Patel’s e-mail was unsolicited by the 25,793 UCI undergraduate students and other UCI community members to whom he had sent the message. The commission considered e-mailing such a large number of students as spam, defined as “[exploiting] electronics communication systems for purposes beyond their intended scope to amplify the widespread distribution of unsolicited electronic messages.”

The commission further defined Patel’s actions as “letter-bombing,” or the sending of an extremely large message or multiple electronic messages to one or more recipients.

The Judicial Board upheld the Elections Commission ruling, stating that though Patel attempted to contact elections commissioner Kelli Chew April 12 by e-mail about the legality of the Lakers ticket raffle mass email, he did not wait for a response and sent the mass e-mail in three batches beginning Monday, April 13 when polls opened. The Judicial Board ruled that he did not allow Chew adequate time to respond and violated the Elections Code that candidates are required to know and understand before running for office.

“He said he was trying to be entrepreneurial, and that’s totally cool and we commend him for doing that … but he violated University policy,” said Haroutounian.

Patel was disqualified, but received 1280 votes and would have fallen short of executive vice presidential candidate Jesse Cheng with 1762 votes.