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USAC halts election chair appointment while resolving loopholes in code revealed last year

By James Barragan

Oct. 3, 2012 12:50 a.m.

The undergraduate student government did not appoint its Election Board chair last night on the date stipulated by the council’s bylaws.

The bylaws call for the appointment before the first week of fall quarter.

In the last Undergraduate Students Association Council elections, loopholes in the election code were exposed and abused. Until these loopholes in the code are resolved, no Election Board chair will be appointed, USAC officals said.

“The conversation (about loopholes in the election code) is still in the process and until that is done it’s not really appropriate to appoint a new Election Board chair because they were not involved in those conversations,” said David Bocarsly, USAC president. “It’s appropriate to continue these conversations and then appoint a chair.”

During the spring elections, three student organizations, Theta Xi fraternity, Moneythink UCLA and UCLA Circle K International were misrepresented in their endorsement of candidates that ran in the Daily Bruin. The endorsement claimed the student organizations supported Bruins United candidates without their approval.

In the case of Circle K, the endorsement was made even though club members wrote an email to Bruins United representatives saying they did not want to endorse the slate. Bruins United is a major student slate, or a group of students who pool their resources to campaign for USAC positions.

The Election Board, which oversees the endorsement process, and Bruins United later characterized these misrepresentations as miscommunications between the slate and the individual student groups involved. Eena Singh, the Election Board chair at the time of the incidents, promised a review of election code policies as soon as the elections ended.

As of now, there has been no official review of the incidents, although officials said they have met over the summer. Bocarsly said he has had four meetings about the violations to the election code since the incident.

He said addressing the election code violations was one of his top priorities this summer, but the vacation period is not ideal to put proposals in front of council since many USAC officers leave the Westwood area.

“It’s not something that’s been forgotten,” Bocarsly said. “It is a slow process and I wouldn’t want to bring it to (a vote in) council without letting them have a good say in it.”

Although some officers left the area, the council continued to meet biweekly throughout the summer.

Singh only had one official meeting about the misrepresentations because her work schedule did not give her time to do so this summer, she said. She will be meeting with her adviser and Bocarsly on Thursday. This will be the first time she meets about the issue officially since spring quarter.

One issue yet to be resolved is how to verify whether students who claim they represent a student group in endorsements are actually authorized to do so. During the last elections, the lack of a verification system for endorsements allowed people who were unauthorized by student groups to represent them without permission. In one instance, Theta Xi fraternity was represented by two female students.

Two of the organizations involved in the incidents filed complaints with the Election Board. One incident involved Circle K and USAC Facilities commissioner Stephen Kraman, but was ruled to be a “miscommunication” and there were no further investigations into the matter.

“It’s unfortunate that this happened but nothing was malicious on my part, I didn’t want to misconstrue anything,” Kraman said. “It’s part of the craziness that is elections week.”

One option being considered is the use of OrgSync, a system that would verify that the representatives submitting a group’s endorsements were authorized to do so.

Whether student representatives giving the official endorsements, called proxies, must be members of the organization is still up in the air, he added.

For now, the search for the Election Board chair is on hold.

Historically appointments have rarely been made by the first week of fall quarter, but appointing the position in the fall allows the Election Board chair to understand the election process better, said Mike Cohn, who was the adviser to the Election Board for 20 years until 2009.

Although Bocarsly said he understands the importance of appointing a chair early, he said this is an extraneous situation because of the events of last spring and it is important to have a qualified candidate fill the position.

Singh, who was the latest Election Board appointment in recent memory, said she encourages the council to appoint a chair early. She said she had very little time to prepare herself for all the duties of the position.

For the moment, the attention is on remedying the problems with the elections code.

“We hope that by the end of this quarter we’ve made significant progress with the election process for elections in spring quarter so that groups are represented fairly,” Singh said.

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James Barragan
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