This post was updated May 29 at 9:55 p.m.
The undergraduate student government judicial board ordered the election board Tuesday to clearly issue a reasonable sanction for a case in which it found candidates had engaged in voter coercion.
The judicial board ruled in two separate cases in favor of the student petitioner and the Undergraduate Students Association Council, and against the USAC Election Board and the election board’s chair, Jack Price, respectively.
In Petition 18-10, which the judicial board held a hearing for Thursday, Price alleged that the council violated its constitution by ordering the judicial board during its Tuesday meeting to accept a petition against the election board. In Petition 18-6, which the judicial board held a hearing for Friday, petitioners Ramneek Hazrah and Matthew Richard alleged election board violated a variety of election code articles, the USAC constitution and the 18-4 Order, which was previously issued by the judicial board.
The judicial board originally declined to review Petition 18-6 on May 21, but later accepted it Wednesday after the council unanimously voted to override the judicial board’s decision to not review the case at last week’s council meeting.
Zahra Hajee, the USAC Facilities commissioner, said the council decided to override the judicial board’s decision to not review the case because it did not think the election board issued a reasonable sanction in Sanction Case 59.
“We reopened the case because it’s our obligation to ensure (a) free and fair election,” Hajee said. “It’s giving (the election board) another chance to uphold their obligation to ensure a free and fair election.”
In the 18-4 Order, the judicial board ordered the election board to issue a reasonable sanction for attempted voter coercion in Sanction Case 59, which alleged Bruins United candidates Bella Martin and Victoria Solkovits engaged in voter coercion. The election board ultimately stated that it found in Sanction Case 59 that Martin and Solkovits engaged in voter coercion. However, following a decision by Price, the board did not issue a sanction against Martin, who was elected a general representative, despite a majority of the board’s ad hoc investigative committee voting to disqualify her.
Aaron Boudaie, the USAC Financial Supports commissioner, said judicial board, and not council members, should arbitrate questions regarding election board and its decisions.
“We have an independent judiciary for a reason,” Boudaie said. “As council members, we all have biases.”
The judicial board ruled in favor of Hazrah and Richard, and has requested that the election board issue a reasonable sanction in Sanction Case 59 and that the election board clearly delineate a sanction section. The document with the election board’s findings for the case currently does not make clear what sanction, if any, the board decided to issue.
Richard said he is glad the judicial board ruled in his favor as the petitioner in Petition 18-6, but does not understand why the ruling did not go further and instruct the election board to disqualify Martin or the Bruins United slate altogether.
“I’m so happy they sided with us, but now is the time to be the hammer and bring justice,” Richard said. “I don’t know why they didn’t recommend more, like disqualification, since that was the remedy we requested.”
During Friday’s hearing, Price said he believed that issuing no sanction against Martin was most appropriate, given that the voting period had ended. The judicial board ruled that while election board could still be complying with the 18-4 Order by not issuing a sanction, it would have to make note of that in its findings, and state what sanction it would have issued had the voting period not ended.
Price said he has not decided what sanction the election board will issue.
“I am not set at this point. I’m still working with (the) board and processing what my directors said at our meeting,” Price said.
He added that while he thinks the extended election ratification process can hurt students’ perception of campus politics, it is beneficial that engaged students and institutional systems are holding individuals in power accountable.
“Dragging out (the) ratification process, considering the fact that the election ended 24 days ago, is not a good thing,” Price said. “But there are benefits at the same time. The event is not the most inspiring, but the fact that the system’s holding itself accountable is in its own way inspiring.”
The decision to override the judicial board’s rejection of Petition 18-6 was challenged by Price in Petition 18-10. Price claimed that USAC had violated Article III. Section B.2. of the USAC Constitution, which states that elected USAC officers shall serve for one year or until their successors are elected or appointed.
The judicial board ruled against Price and said it believes a council member’s one-year term is defined to be the length of one academic year and that the successors have not been appointed since they have not been sworn in by the chief justice of the judicial board, according to a judicial board memorandum.
The judicial board’s full opinion for both rulings will be made available within two weeks.
Hazrah said she hopes her and Richard’s successes in the USAC judiciary will make USAC seem more accessible to students.
“The overall student population has the idea that USAC is off limits, (that) it’s for the more privileged. Two random first-years coming in and getting people talking makes USAC seem more accessible,” Hazrah said. “It’s about restoring faith in UCLA democracy.”