ASUCI Vice Presidents Announced: Elections Commission Found Guilty of Wrongfully Disqualifying Candidates
Following a week-long appeal process, Tianna Nand and Rafael Carrazco were named ASUCI’s 2016-17 Academic Affairs Vice President and Administrative Affairs Vice President respectively last Friday. Nand, who was disqualified from the race two weeks prior for allegedly hosting an “unofficial polling location,” was able to claim her position after winning a Judicial Board case against the ASUCI Elections Commission for wrongfully disqualifying her.
Nand, whose platform included prioritizing mental health and decreasing textbook prices, was officially disqualified by ASUCI’s Elections Commission on April 15, after the commission charged her with “laptopping,” or using a personal laptop at a campaign booth to attract voters on-location.
The Elections Commission originally ruled that this practice violated the terms of “voter intimidation” prohibited by ASUCI’s Elections Code. Nand was disqualified for the alleged violation along with Tej Vuligonda, a colleague running for Administrative Affairs Vice President.
Both Nand and Vuligonda argued that the terms of Election Code were vague, and that it has been a precedent until this election to allow laptops at campaign booths. Further, both noted that Elections Commission never told them that “laptopping” was specifically prohibited until midway through elections week, at which point both candidates were already disqualified.
Both candidates filed complaints against Elections Commission on April 19, when all ASUCI election results were set to be released. Due to the complaints, however, the results of five ASUCI positions and one referendum were listed as “pending” and remained unreleased for nearly one week.
The Elections Commission itself was tasked with holding “evidentiary hearings” into the complaints filed against them, the results of which were released on April 25.
Elections Commission maintained that their rulings to disqualify Nand and Vuligonda were valid; the aforementioned candidates disagreed, and took their complaints to Judicial Board – the first time in five years that an election complaint was granted a hearing.
In their ruling of Nand’s case, which was heard in the Student Center last Wednesday, Judicial Board admitted that “the current ASUCI elections code is riddled with inconsistencies” and that “this…is no excuse for the Elections Commissioner to interpret the Elections Code in a manner which fundamentally changes the nature of the election, mid-week of the election.”
Judicial Board further addressed Nand’s complaint that she was not adequately informed by Elections Commission of complaints against her. The Board acknowledged that “many of the alleged violations and communications were done over Facebook messenger, which is not an official communications method.”
Finally, the Judicial Board chided incumbent Elections Commissioner, Brittany Nguyen, for “too much collaboration…with other members of ASUCI that cannot be allowed to take place.” During the elections season, Elections Commissioner is only permitted to discuss election matters with Judicial Board and Executive Directors of the Commission to avoid any bias.
On these grounds, Nand’s disqualification was overturned, and she was allowed to claim the position of Academic Affairs VP with a majority vote of 2699 undergraduates.
Vuligonda’s Judicial Board hearing directly followed Nand’s. He argued that Elections Commission charged him with the same “unofficial polling location” offense committed by the Student Center/Cross-Cultural Center Referendum team, but he was disqualified while the referendum team was given a lighter punishment.
Judicial Board agreed to overturn Vuligonda’s disqualification based on the unequal punishments. However, Vuligonda lost the Administrative Affairs VP position to Rafael Carrazco, who had the majority vote of 3144 undergraduates.
In their decisions, Judicial Board enacted several provisions to prevent misinterpretations of election codes in coming years.
In future elections, they ruled that no laptops are allowed at campaign booths for any purpose, and Elections Commissioner must clearly inform candidates of all prohibited campaign tactics prior to campaign season. Email will henceforth be recognized as the official form of communication between ASUCI and candidates.
Finally, Election Commissioner may no longer discuss election matters with any ASUCI member besides the Commissioner’s own Executive Directors and the Judicial Board, whom the Commissioner must inform of proposed disqualifications of candidates before any action against them is taken.
In their closing remarks, the Board’s Justices encouraged ASUCI Legislative Council to reform elections code as soon as possible, to avoid such misinterpretations in future elections.
“It must be said…that the Elections Code must be updated to eliminate inconsistencies,” reads the Judicial Board’s decision in Nand v. Election Commission. “We as the Judicial Board urge the Legislative Council to do so at their most earliest convenience.”