Elections Council discusses possible campaign violations by executive candidates

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At an ASUC Elections Council meeting Friday, members of the council discussed complaints brought against two Student Action executive candidates running in the upcoming election.

The council discussed possible bylaw violations regarding electronic campaigning and use of ASUC resources by external affairs vice presidential candidate Vinay Ramesh and presidential candidate Milad Razavi.

The issue of electronic campaigning was brought under scrutiny Wednesday after Ramesh, a current Student Action senator, allegedly changed his profile picture on Facebook to a photo promoting his own candidacy for external affairs vice president during an ASUC Senate meeting.

The action is considered campaigning, which is prohibited while “using ASUC authority, facilities, funds, or resources,” according to the ASUC bylaws. Anna Head Alumnae Hall, where senate meetings are held, is considered an ASUC space by the Lower Sproul Plaza Memorandum of Understanding defined in the bylaws.

During the meeting, Ramesh and his campaign manager, Monsoon Pabrai, said Pabrai had uploaded the photo on Ramesh’s profile from a remote location that was not considered an ASUC space and Ramesh was looking at the photo during the meeting because there had been an issue with its original posting that he was concerned about.

According to ASUC Attorney General Natalja Karniouchina, the evidence provided was a photograph that depicts Ramesh looking at his promotional photo on Facebook during the senate meeting. She said it is unclear but it looks like campaigning.

In a point of clarification, the council voted on what it deemed to constitute electronic campaigning, particularly on a Facebook platform. By two unanimous votes, the council declared that “liking” posts on Facebook is not campaigning, but sharing, posting or commenting on election-related items is.

ASUC Elections Prosecutor Olivia Cusimano said during the meeting that she would need to see more evidence in order to press charges and send the case to the Judicial Council, but another group could possibly bring the case before the council. These charges can be punishable by three censures if verified. If a candidate receives five censures, he or she is automatically disqualified from running for office.

The council also discussed a complaint regarding Razavi’s connection with current ASUC President Pavan Upadhyayula. The council deliberated on whether Razavi violated ASUC bylaws by “using the President’s favor,” which could be considered an ASUC resource, to promote his campaign interests.

Cusimano said she would investigate the charges further. She also said she believes prosecuting in this instance with the evidence provided would be “stretching the bylaws too much.”

According to Karniouchina, electronic campaigning remains a relatively new realm of campaigning not thoroughly discussed in the ASUC bylaws. The issue will be further discussed by members of the senate in a committee meeting this week.

Contact Kate Wolffe at [email protected].