Campus sophomore Derek Topper files petition after failing to submit ASUC electronic filing form

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Campus sophomore Derek Topper filed a petition against the ASUC Elections Council after being disqualified to run in the ASUC Senate spring 2017 elections for failing to submit his electronic filing form on time.

The ASUC Judicial Council held a public hearing Thursday in which all members from the council unanimously denied Topper’s petition after it was determined that he did not meet the electronic filing form deadline and failed to notify the council that he lacked confirmation that he filed.

Topper, who is a former Daily Californian distribution analyst, said at the hearing that seven days before the filing deadline of March 17, he submitted the form and subsequently received confirmation from the Leadership, Engagement, Advising, & Development Center — UC Berkeley’s center for student leadership and extracurriculars — that he was “good to go,” despite not receiving an email informing him the electronic form was received. Topper added that an agent at the LEAD Center, Rebeckah Farmer, had told him the confirmation typically takes some time to process.

Delegates from the Elections Council stated that the LEAD Center is “not an agent of the elections” and that it is an entity that helps the ASUC collect filing fees. Prathyush Parasuraman, chief legal officer for the council, also said the person Topper spoke with at the LEAD Center may have referred to another separate form that indicated Topper had to submit the electronic form, which Topper had signed.

Parasuraman added that he had screenshot evidence of Topper’s application status as currently “In Progress.” Linsha Qi, council chair, said the importance of submitting the electronic form on time to qualify for ASUC elections candidacy was communicated by the council through multiple platforms, such as information sessions and social media.

Friend of Topper and campus sophomore, Jonathan Rutchik, said at the hearing that Topper’s failure to file could have been because of a technical error resulting from CalLink, the online system for student organization management, undergoing issues regarding the reservation of space for student groups.

Seniors Shoujit Banerjee and Mihir Patil, members of the ASUC Judicial Council, said they believed seven days was enough time for Topper to realize he did not receive a confirmation email from the LEAD Center. Several members of the election council also emphasized that many students reached out to them with questions about applying, but they did not receive a single email from Topper.

“His case is unfortunate but (accepting his petition) would be unfair to other 60 candidates who did file their forms on time and did email us with questions,” Qi said.

Nuha Khalfay, a campus sophomore and independent candidate, said independent candidates must hold themselves accountable during every step of the filing process, and said she found that the elections website was dense, but accessible. She added that the council was very responsive in answering her questions.

Another independent candidate, Taehan Lee, expressed similar sentiments, saying the election council uses infosessions, Facebook graphics and other methods to promote the elections so that every potential candidate interested in running can file to appear on the ballot.

“I want my candidacy to show people that it’s not as scary as it seems to run as an independent candidate,” Lee said. “It might be difficult to know about all these steps beforehand if you are independent candidate; however, if you are truly committed to the process, it’s definitely possible and can be done.”

Contact Christine Lee at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @christinejlee17.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article failed to disclose that Derek Topper formerly worked at The Daily Californian.