ASUC Elections Council files cases against 7 candidates for alleged spamming

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Update 4/9/15: This article has been updated to reflect information from Arya Aliabadi. 

The Elections Council officially filed eight cases against seven ASUC senate candidates this week for spamming voters with unsolicited emails or messages and for false representation.

The individuals with charges against them are Independent candidate Sumayyah Din, Student Action candidates Alicia Lau and James Zamora and CalSERVE candidates Diana Nguyen, Aanchal Chugh, Haruko Ayabe and Arya Aliabadi, all alleged to have violated an ASUC bylaw against spamming voters.

Bylaw 4203 considers an email or message “spam” if the candidate has not had prior contact with the recipient, or if the candidate was not granted permission from the leadership of the organization they are sending messages to, defined as consensus from an executive board. Knowing a recipient could include Facebook friendship or a verifiable meeting, according to Elections Prosecutor Olivia Cusimano.

“The bylaw pertaining to this specific violation hasn’t been changed from previous years so it is puzzling and frustrating that it is being violated,” said Elections Council chair Jenny Chien.

Aliabadi, who previously served as a Daily Californian photo editor, has also been accused of falsely claiming that he is a member of the American Medical Student Association. In addition to being accused of spamming, Nguyen was also alleged to be in violation of misusing ASUC resources for campaigning.

The first spamming-related cases came to light Tuesday. More charges were filed the next day.

Later Wednesday, Cusimano released a statement regarding the bylaw violations. In the statement, she said that while she understands that candidates are trying to get as much support as possible, she respects the privacy of the student body.

“While the Council supports active campaigning, we do not condone spamming those who do not wish to be involved in the elections process,” Cusimano said in the statement.

In addition, Cusimano urged voters to continue to send in complaints if they notice potential bylaw infringements.

Ayabe expressed confusion with the council’s charges against her.

“I myself only e-mailed those that shared their contact informations with me so I’m honestly quite confused,” Ayabe said in an email.

In response to the AMSA allegation, Aliabadi wrote in a text that he had been involved in an AMSA committee until being terminated from it this week. Aliabadi said he had not yet had time to update his website to reflect the termination when he received notice from the Elections Council about the allegation.

Other accused candidates either did not want to comment or were not immediately available.

The Elections Council has not yet taken any formal action against the candidates. It plans, however, to discuss the matter further at an Elections Council meeting at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Violating bylaw 4203 is considered a Tier 3 violation, while claiming false membership in AMSA would be a Tier 1 offense. Tier 3 offenses can potentially receive a censure, while Tier 1 offenses can receive 2-3 censures, according to Cusimano.

It takes 5 censures for a candidate to be disqualified from running. Ultimately, the Judicial Council will decide if the candidates are in violation of these bylaws.

Contact Whitney Brymwitt at [email protected].