Both CalSERVE and Student Action have declared an intent to discontinue the practice of dropping charges against the each other’s candidates this year — a practice that faced criticism for enabling the campus’s major parties to duck laws meant to ensure free and fair elections.
Historically, CalSERVE and Student Action have gathered evidence of each other’s alleged campaign violations and mutually agreed to not file charges against one another out of fear of mutually assured disqualification. This year, however, party officials have no plans for settling their differences in the case that allegations of violations arise.
“My office is pleased that they have decided to renounce the practice of illegally canceling each other’s charges,” ASUC Attorney General Hinh Tran said in an email. “My office views that practice as an unethical subversion of both the spirit and letter of Title IV: Election By-Laws, which are designed to guarantee free and fair elections.”
CalSERVE elections chair Anais LaVoie said that CalSERVE has informed its candidates that in the event that they intentionally violate ASUC bylaws, they will be on their own in defending themselves. She said she believes this action will make candidates more accountable to the bylaws.
“I’m personally very against trading charges,” LaVoie said. “I don’t think it’s ethical for us to sit down and say, ‘We both cheated — let’s not report it.’”
Joey Lam, Student Action party chair, said that while Student Action did not necessarily plan to continue the practice of trading charges, he could not speak to what his party might do were charges of violations to arise.
“As of right now, with no campaign violations in my eyes … there is no reason to pursue what has happened in the past,” he said. “As party chair, I have no intention of trying to get something out of a violation.”
Previous elections have been fraught with allegations that candidates were breaking the rules. Following the 2010 ASUC elections, then-president-elect Noah Stern faced potential disqualification when the Judicial Council issued him three censures — two shy of the five required to disqualify a candidate — for violations including sending mass emails and voting on behalf of another student.
Last year, campaign finance documents suggested that candidates may have exceeded spending limits dictated by the ASUC bylaws.
“I think that in the past, people have gotten away with cheating,” LaVoie said. “Either CalSERVE was too scared or too nontransparent, and now that’s not happening.”