Two newly “elected” council members, Claire Fieldman and Bella Martin, have been credibly accused by multiple students of invading voter privacy and coercing votes, a clear violation of the Undergraduate Students Association Council Election Code. Both allegedly targeted drunk students in and around fraternity houses Thursday night of elections week.
Numerous complaints were filed and the USAC Election Board ruled that the Bruins United slate could not campaign for the rest of election week. Luckily for Bruins United candidates, only about three hours remained in the election at that point.
In other words, Fieldman and Martin could bank on the idea that if caught, the election board would levy relatively minimal penalties.
And why not? It worked in the past.
In 2016, Bruins United was sanctioned for the last two hours of election week for invasion of voter privacy. It’s not far-fetched to assume the slate knew it would only be barred from campaigning for a couple of hours if its members made an egregious violation of the election code during the last 24 hours of campaigning – a sanction during arguably the least valuable campaigning hours.
Luckily, the USAC Judicial Board decided Wednesday that three hours of punishment for major violations of the election code is insufficient. Rarely does the judicial board rule against the election board; this time, it did.
And that’s how it should be. Major violations by Bruins United in past years were met with scant repercussions. The election board must use the opportunity afforded by the judicial board to break this pathological culture of minimalist punishment for major campaign violations. After all, such a culture of passivity is antithetical to the principles of fairness and integrity we value in student elections.
“I witnessed … Fieldman and her friend clearly going around to girls who were drunk and asking if they voted yet,” said one student in the judicial board hearing. “(Fieldman) was even leaning into their phone screens and (dictating) who they should vote for.”
Another student testified that she saw students being coerced to vote by Bruins United candidates, such as Martin, but was afraid to come forward because Martin’s mother threatened to contact an attorney.
How can the student body trust our democratic process when our potential USAC president and general representative have such testimonies against them?
During the hearing, the election board admitted it made a mistake in its investigation. Some members of the election board even said that they already wanted to disqualify the candidates before the judicial board case. With such overwhelming evidence and such horrifying testimonies, it is time for the election board to do the right thing and disqualify Fieldman and Martin to preserve the sanctity of student elections.
Leave no doubts in the election’s fairness, election board. Disqualify the cheating candidates and set the precedent for future elections: Cheating is not okay and democracy will prevail.
Gardner is a fifth-year political science student and member of Students for Justice in Palestine, a UCLA student group.