Alleged campaign violation raises questions about ASUC bylaws

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Editor’s note: A quote by Student Action Senator Ori Herschmann that commented on Student Action Senator Vinay Ramesh’s alleged campaign violations was retracted from this article due to a conflict of interest. The writer of the article, Logan Goldberg, previously worked in Herschmann’s senate office.

An alleged violation of the ASUC campaign bylaws during Wednesday’s senate meeting has sparked controversy over the use of electronic campaigning on ASUC spaces.

Student Action Senator Vinay Ramesh’s Facebook profile picture was changed during the meeting to a photo promoting his candidacy for External Affairs Vice President. The election bylaws currently prohibit campaigning while “using ASUC authority, facilities, funds, or resources.”

But Ramesh said one of his campaign managers, who unlike him was not on ASUC space at the time, changed his profile picture on his behalf.

“Even though the (ASUC) Attorney General’s office might be pursuing charges against me, I would like to say for the record that nothing elections related was posted by me in the ASUC senate space,” Ramesh said in a Facebook message. “I truly hope we can work with the Attorney General to come to an amicable close to this case very soon as I do not see any fault on my side.”

ASUC Attorney General Natalja Karniouchina said that, under the constitution, sharing or liking election-related posts on Facebook while in an ASUC space is prohibited. She added that the bylaws can apply to staff members taking action on behalf of the candidate.

“Possible violations over the physical use of ASUC facilities for campaigning have come up in the past, but never regarding Internet usage for campaigning in an ASUC facility,” said Elections Council chair Jenny Chien in an email. “The issue around rules for social media campaigning is relatively new territory.”

ASUC Senate vice chair and attorney general nominee Alek Klimek said it was brought to his attention that several senators may have violated the bylaw, but Chien says only one complaint has been received as of Thursday.

Karniouchina said the filing process will start with the Elections Council, which will discuss how to regulate this new territory at their open meeting Friday. Members of the Elections Council include the council chair, assistant chair, attorney general, chief accountability officer, elections auditor, elections prosecutor, public defender and a non-voting secretary from the ASUC Secretariat Office.

Karniouchina will be advising Elections Prosecutor Olivia Cusimano on whether sanctions are appropriate given the unique nature of the charges. If found guilty of such charges, the offending party will receive three censures, according to Karniouchina. Five censures result in an automatic disqualification from running for office.

The 2015-16 ASUC general elections will take place April 7, 8 and 9.

Contact Logan Goldberg at [email protected].