The ASUC Office of the President chief of staff and 2023-24 President-elect, Sydney Roberts, was found guilty on both charges of violating bylaws of the ASUC constitution by the Judicial Council on Friday.
In ASUC v. Roberts and Shelton, Roberts was charged with the violation of two ASUC bylaws: 4203 § 2.6, which forbids the use of ASUC authority or funds for campaign purposes, and 3.5, which prohibits the use of ASUC facilities for campaign purposes.
The charge discussed by the Judicial Council involved Roberts’ use of her chief of staff email for campaign purposes. Having been issued four censures in total, Roberts fell short of the five required for disqualification from the ASUC election, which would have removed her as the president-elect.
“By using the Office of the President Chief of Staff email, that is the use of her authority in her position. As the chief of staff, it was for campaign purposes and the email was for campaign organization,” said ASUC Elections Prosecutor Isabel Ok at the hearing.
Specifically, Roberts’ email encouraged its recipients to repost videos and graphics promoting her campaign, providing text templates as well. It was sent 15 minutes after voting opened at midnight on April 12. The email included Roberts and Shelton’s ASUC email signatures at the bottom — however, the charge against Shelton was dismissed on the grounds that the email’s sender was Roberts.
Ok said Roberts’ use of the email violates ASUC election bylaws as it risks the “integrity” of the election by failing to uphold the ASUC constitution. The constitution requires a separation between currently held ASUC positions and campaign action and organization.
“While I don’t believe it affected the outcome of the election, the language of the bylaw states ‘substantially affected the outcome or integrity of the election,’ ” Ok said at the hearing. “It can be either, not necessarily both.”
Roberts was represented by Sebastian Iqbal and Maxim Miller, who argued that Roberts had used her chief of staff email by accident, calling it “a simple mistake” and not a method to sway potential voters.
Iqbal claimed that the email had been sent to 55 individuals already within Roberts’ campaign, implying these individuals were already planning or had already voted for Roberts by the time they had received the email.
Iqbal also argued the outcome of the election was not skewed by the email as all recipients had already committed to voting for Roberts. With Roberts winning by nearly 1200 votes, Iqbal said those 55 emails would not have made a difference.
“The ‘substantial effect’ is what the council should keep in mind this evening,” Iqbal said. “The members had already voted for Roberts, agreed to receive campaign materials from Roberts, and more importantly, actively campaigned for her. No individuals beyond Robert’s campaign team received the email.”
Robert’s defense called two witnesses who received the email to testify and they both reiterated that the email did not influence their voting choice as they were already members of Robert’s campaign team.
Nonetheless, when questioned by one of the justices if campaign material sent by an ASUC-associated email affected integrity more than an email sent from a personal email, Iqbal stated, “I think it does … but that was not the case here”.
Following this line of questioning, Ok issued her closing arguments.
“Intent is irrelevant as it is not in the text of the law and though there was most likely no impact on the outcome of the election, impact on the integrity of the election alone is still in violation of this bylaw, regardless of the impact on the outcome,” Ok said in her closing arguments.
After a closed deliberation session, Roberts was found guilty of violating bylaws 4206 and 4203. For the first charge, she was issued one censure, two more for the second and one from a separate case prior to the hearing, leaving her with a total of four censures. A total of 5 censures is required to be disqualified from the ASUC President position, according to Ok.
“The precedent sent by this case is one of separation,” Ok said in an email. “Any ASUC position held by a candidate must remain entirely separate from them as a candidate. The integrity of the election process depends on this.”