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ASUC bylaws are found difficult to enforce for campaigns against referendums

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APRIL 09, 2012

Supporters and opponents of the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative are alleging campaign violations against each other, but the election bylaws make it almost impossible for the ASUC Elections Council to respond to charge claims against a campaign opposing the initiative.

Lynn Yu, campaign manager for the initiative — which asks students if they will pay a $2 semesterly fee to support The Daily Californian — claims that she has observed several messages opposing the initiative that violate bylaws, but the chair of the ASUC Elections Council said no formal action could be taken against opponents of V.O.I.C.E. because there is no official group or individual opposing it.

Yu’s claims include that chalking against the initiative was present at the Unit 1 residence halls, a prohibited campaign location, and that “No on V.O.I.C.E.” messages were left on chalkboards in classrooms without the expressed permission of the professors or graduate student instructors.

And Elizabeth Kopaskie, director of business, advertising and marketing for CalTVfiled charges Sunday that state that the Daily Cal committed campaign violations which could result in the disqualification of the referendum. Kopaskie — who filed her charges in her individual capacity and not on behalf of CalTV — alleges in her charge sheet that the Daily Cal violated campaign rules by storing campaign materials in its office and campaigning in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union building, among other charges.

Kopaskie said in an email that she filed charges against the initiative in order to ensure that the election is a “just and accurate measure of student sentiment.”

“Opposition to this referendum is necessary to create a student body that is thoroughly informed of multiple perspectives on the issue of the V.O.I.C.E. Initiative,” Kopaskie said in the email.

The ASUC Judicial Council has accepted Kopaskie’s charges. However, Elections Council Chair Pamudh Kariyawasam said not much could be done  in response to the claims brought forth by Yu, unless there was an official election council sanctioned no-campaign — which Kariyawasam said there is not. Although students have flyered in opposition to the referendum and used social media to object to it, no one filed paper to be the official opposition, according to Kariyawasam

The majority of the election council enforcement power comes from the dual threat of censures for candidates or disqualifications and censures for referendums, according to Kariyawasam. He added that an incident arose two years ago where election council records were lost, severely reducing institutional knowledge on how to handle election concerns.

ASUC Attorney General Deepti Rajendran said the activity by the opposition was “definitely a problem … (but) there isn’t a clear solution.”

In 2010, the B.E.A.R.S. Initiative — which put a referendum before students asking for a fee to support the renovation of Lower Sproul Plaza  — also faced an opposition campaign that alleged bylaws violations. Senior Andy Nevis filed a suit with the judicial council alleging that the B.E.A.R.S. Initiative was improperly placed on the ballot after missing the filing deadline, but the suit — which was one of several claims against the initiative — was not successful.

Nevis said in an interview that it was easier to file charges of election violations against the proponents of that initiative.

“Even if (the opposition) got to five censures you couldn’t just disqualify them,” Nevis said. “It would be a little bit harder to hold the no side accountable.”

For the Class Pass referendum, a referendum to extend the contract with AC Transit, the primary opponent is SQUELCH! senator and presidential candidate Noah Ickowitz. According to Kariyawasam, the election council would have someone to speak to if concerns arose, but the overall problem of not being able to enforce censures is the same.

Kariyawasam said the election council condemns individuals or organizations breaking bylaws, whether or not they have officially come forward to campaign.

“It just seems radically wrong that by not coming forward to represent your political views you can (beat) the rules placed to ensure a fair and democratic election,” Kariyawasam said.

Staff writer Daphne Chen contributed to this report. 

Chloe Hunt covers student government.

APRIL 09, 2012

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