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ASUCI Senate Continues Debate Over Fairness Of Spring Elections

ASUCI Senate continued a debate last week about the legitimacy of this year’s spring elections, based on an ongoing issue regarding candidates signing endorsements on behalf of their own clubs — a practice that many Senators consider unethical, but that is not prohibited by ASUCI’s Elections Code. After voting unanimously to ratify the spring elections during week five, several Senators motioned last week to rescind the ratification, alleging that Student Government & Student Media professional staff released the results of the election without first confirming with Senate that the campaign season was conducted fairly.

ASUCI’s Elections Code states that results “must be released by 5 p.m. Tuesday of fifth week,” regardless of whether Senate has ratified the elections process. Student Government & Student Media professional staff released the results by this deadline, before Senate had voted to ratify results, which they did on Thursday of week five.

“Ratification is not a prerequisite of releasing or finalizing elections results,” said Chief Justice of Judicial Board Suchith Shantharaj. “It’s a stamp of approval by Senate telling students that elections were conducted fairly … but it’s a formality.”

ASUCI Judicial Board and Elections Commission both met with professional staff prior to Tuesday of week five and approved the release of results on Tuesday at 5 p.m. However, several Senators, including at-large Senator Jeanine Erikat, expressed concerns over the confidentiality of these meetings. She accused professional staff of “walking all over our voices, and our constituents’ voices” by releasing results without Senate’s approval and later “harassing” Senators to ratify the announced results.

“There were pro-staff and Senators who were intimidating and harassing other Senators to vote [to ratify],” said Erikat. “Results shouldn’t have been released just out of the blue like that.”

Senate President Gurneel Boparai, who ran for ASUCI President and lost to Annie Le, agreed that “it was wrong for [pro-staff, Judicial Board and Elections Commission] to conduct this privately.” He initiated the motion to rescind the Senate’s previous ratification.

Aaron Echols, assistant director of information systems for Student Government & Student Media, spoke on behalf of the professional staff who released the results and noted that all procedures were carried out legally.  

“Judicial Board requested a meeting with us; we went over the current Elections Code and agreed [with the Elections Commissioner] that the results needed to be posted by [the stated deadline],” Echols said, providing supporting documents that proved the original request of the meeting in question was proposed by Judicial Board, not professional staff.

Parshan Khosravi, a constitutional scholar who was ASUCI president from 2015-16, originally brought the endorsements “loophole” to Senate President Boparai’s attention, but said that he never expected the issue to delay ratification of elections results.

“It’s a loophole, there’s nothing more to it,” Khosravi said. “I specifically told [Boparai] that this should not jeopardize the elections process, and it does not violate Elections Code. This … should not have convinced Senate not to ratify elections and extend it for so long. ASUCI is made of over 400 people who need to be selected and trained by fall quarter. There should be no more delays.”

Many Senators remained undecided in the controversy.

“It wasn’t illegal to [release results without Senate approval], but in some people’s views, it was unethical,” said Business Senator Julie Lim. “Technically, this wasn’t wrong according to the Elections Code. The concern is not about legality, but ethics.”

Senators proposed a legislation to correct the endorsements “loophole” for future ASUCI elections, R53-108.

Senators motioned to table the discussion until this Tuesday, May 15. Senate will then convene to discuss further from 5-7 p.m. in Woods Cove BC.