ASUC Elections Council denies CalSERVE its party name, reclassifies DAAP candidates as independent

CalSERVE/Courtesy

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Update 03/14/2016: This article has been updated to reflect new information about an emergency injunction order issued by the ASUC Judicial Council in response to the Elections Council’s decision, and additional interviews with student leaders. 

The ASUC Elections Council voted unanimously to deny CalSERVE the right to use its current party name, citing its similarity to UC Berkeley’s branding.

According to a notice sent by the Elections Council on Sunday, the decision to strip CalSERVE of the party name was made in accordance with ASUC election bylaws that prohibit party names or branding from referencing any campus organization without presenting its express written permission.

The ASUC Judicial Council, however, issued an emergency injunction Monday morning against the decision made by the Elections Council to prevent any irreparable damage to the party.

“Please note that this is not a substantive ruling on this case and is not indicative of the way the Judicial Council would decide, should the case proceed to a hearing,” said Emma Ireland, chief justice of the Judicial Council in the injunction order.

The Judicial Council, according to Ireland’s statement, encourages both parties to meet and attempt to reach a resolution.

CalSERVE, which stands for Cal Students for Equal Rights and a Valid Education, was founded in 1984, emerging from a movement to divest university funds from the South African apartheid.

“We’ve been using this name for over 31 years,” said CalSERVE party co-chair Ismael Contreras. “For the Council to decide that after 31 years that this name is no longer valid is disappointing.”

The Elections Council also reclassified all candidates from the Defend Affirmative Action Party as independent candidates, because of the party’s failure to file an online endorsement form and party filing fee.

Meeri Shin, ASUC Elections Council chair, said that even if CalSERVE did have the campus’s permission to reference its branding, using “Cal” would still violate bylaws because the campus is prohibited from endorsing any specific candidate or party. The name might mislead a voter into believing the party is being endorsed by the campus, Shin said.

“It’s really important to remember the Elections Council isn’t here to seek out problems,” Shin said. “We’re here to create an open and inviting place that’s equal and fair to everyone involved.”

Contreras said CalSERVE plans to appeal to the ASUC Judicial Council to overturn the Elections Council decision.

He alleged that there was no due process granted to the party, and that the Elections Council neglected reference to a bylaw. The language notes that if a party has been registered for more than three elections cycles, the bylaw will only apply if it can be demonstrated that the party branding is likely to confuse voters, Contreras said.

“Elections Council has the burden of proving that,” Contreras said, adding that he believes it is clear that the party has not been endorsed by the campus considering its history. “It doesn’t seem like there’s been any proof, period.”

A campus student first notified the Elections Council of a possible discrepancy between the bylaws and CalSERVE’s name March 1. Shin said the council did not take action then because CalSERVE had not yet filed candidacy.

The Elections Council has reset the party and candidate budgets to allow for new materials with a new party name, according to the notice.

Shin said CalSERVE had previously raised similar concerns about the Apple Engineering party name. Shin said the Elections Council felt that because a student brought up a complaint that was similar to a concern CalSERVE previously mentioned, the council would have to enforce the bylaws fairly.

ASUC Executive Vice President Lavanya Jawaharlal said, however, that CalSERVE was not alone in raising concerns. Senators representing four ASUC political parties discussed how various party names were perceived at an ASUC committee last year, Jawaharlal said.

Ireland said in the injunction order that if an agreement is not possible then the Judicial Council may schedule a hearing.

Senior staff reporter Adrienne Shih contributed to this report.

Contact Suhauna Hussain and Adrienne Shih at [email protected].