As part of the ASUC’s attempt to make elections more transparent, three students unaffiliated with the ASUC will be chosen this week to head the Elections Finance Commission. The commission, which is the first of its kind, is tasked with monitoring party expenditures during the upcoming campaign and election.
The creation of the independent commission was mandated by the ASUC Senate in December to ensure that parties are abiding by spending regulations, a move that aims to increase transparency and accountability in elections.
“The senate wanted a sense of fairness and accuracy around election finances,” said Jina Yoo, this year’s elections chair. “Money is a big deal during elections — there are rules, and they need to be upheld.”
In past elections, there have been concerns about parties failing to accurately record campaign expenditures, which may have led to candidates exceeding spending limits.
“The old system made it easy for parties with resources to obscure their expenditures — the rules weren’t really clear,” said Matthew Enger, CalSERVE’s communications coordinator.
New measures dictated by a senate bill passed last semester, SB 196, emphasize diligent bookkeeping and impose a new all-party spending cap. Now, parties may not spend more than $2,625 on the election and are liable for an audit once they exceed $1,000.
According to ASUC election documents, Student Action and CalSERVE, the campus’s two largest parties, spent $5,091 and $3,402, respectively, on last year’s election campaigns.
“(CalSERVE) feels very strongly that it’s important to follow the rules, and we have designed our budget to accommodate the new cap,” Enger said. “We are willing and happy to be audited if need be.”
Student Action Party chair Joey Lam said that he was looking forward to a new level of transparency and accountability in election finances.
“It’s important that nothing slips through the cracks,” he said.
Lam added that the spending cap will level the playing field and help further democratize the ASUC election process, as candidates will be spending roughly equivalent amounts of money on campaigns.
“The hope is that elections will now be more accessible to independent parties,” Lam said.
If successful, this commission will be a step toward ensuring that open elections are prioritized more highly than party dominance.
“As long as the commission is picked in a fair and balanced way, I think it’s a great thing that is going to help hold everyone accountable,” Lam said.
Commission members will be chosen based on their objectivity, numerical accuracy and accounting ability. The commission will work for three weeks during election proceedings, with each member receiving a $500 stipend.
“It’s a brand new program — we’re planning as we go along,” Yoo said.
Contact Natasha Osborne at [email protected].