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USAC to vote on election reform

By Jillian Beck

Feb. 4, 2013 1:03 a.m.

The push for undergraduate student government election reform – spurred by the abuse of loopholes in last year’s election that resulted in the misrepresentation of several student group endorsements – is coming to a crossroads this week.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council Election Board is proposing to restrict the official endorsement process to official student group representatives – club signatories – or officially authorized substitutes.

USAC President David Bocarsly, however, is proposing replacing the official endorsement hearing with a forum for any student or student group – registered and non-registered alike – to ask questions and decide on who to possibly endorse.

USAC will vote on the two separate proposals, which have garnered mixed reactions from student leaders across campus, at its meeting Tuesday.

The distinction between the two proposals lies primarily with Election Board oversight.

The Election Board’s proposal aims to keep the board’s regulation over the official endorsement process, requiring official student organizations to submit official documentation of their endorsements, said Dana Pede, USAC Election Board chair.

Bocarsly’s proposal would remove the Election Board regulation of the endorsement process, allowing any student or student group to endorse candidates independently of the Election Board, he said. It would also eliminate the two-page advertisement that is usually printed in the Daily Bruin the Monday that voting begins, he added.

Any groups or individuals endorsing candidates would still have to get all campaign materials approved by the Election Board, protocol that is currently in place, he added.

Bocarsly said he thinks one of the main problems that comes with the endorsement process as it is currently is the time and effort involved for candidates, the Election Board and student groups. He added that the nearly five-hour hearing and paperwork required makes the process restrictive for student groups.

“I’m an advocate for any sort of change and I am open to other alternatives,” Bocarsly said. “But I think this is the best solution for the campus.”

The Election Board, which administers the spring USAC elections, is currently responsible for overseeing the official endorsement process, sanctioning campaign violations and proposing changes to the election code, among other duties, according to the election code.

Pede said Bocarsly’s proposal would hold candidates accountable for groups’ campaigning measures, rather than holding the groups accountable.

“A group has to register with (the Election Board) to endorse. If a group breaks e-code we can hold them directly accountable,” she said. “(With Bocarsly’s proposal) that burden is completely shouldered by the candidates.”

Pede said she will not recommend to the council that it adopt Bocarsly’s proposal because she does not think it completely addresses the loopholes that were abused during last year’s election.

“It doesn’t actually fix the problem that happened last year,” she said. “Groups could still be misrepresented, but (under Bocarsly’s proposal the Election) Board has no way to regulate and stand up for the group if it happens again.”

Bocarsly, however, said he thinks his proposal addresses what happened last year and bigger problems with the current endorsement process.

The two proposals have garnered mixed reactions from both student groups and slate leaders.

Ken Myers, a third-year mathematics and economics student and chair of the Bruins United slate, said he and his slate fully support Bocarsly’s election reform proposal because he thinks it is more comprehensive than the Election Board’s proposed reform.

Myers said he thinks the current official endorsement process acts as a barrier for students and student groups who do not want to sit through the lengthy event or deal with the official documentation.

“I sat through the endorsement process last year and we knew beforehand who we wanted to support,” said Myers, who was a representative for Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity at the endorsement hearing last year. “Sitting through the entire process didn’t help us any further.”

Other groups, like Challah for Hunger, echoed Myers’ sentiments, saying the current process is tedious and bureaucratic.

Still, several student leaders said they value the official Election Board-regulated endorsement process and oppose Bocarsly’s plan.

“(The whole endorsement process is) a tedious process to go through, but if we are serious about the work that USAC does, who cares if it is a tedious process?” said Devin Murphy, a second-year political science student, external vice president for Bruin Democrats and the internal public relations coordinator for the Afrikan Student Union at UCLA.

Taylor Bazley, a third-year political science student and co-chair of the new True Bruin slate who ran for USAC financial supports commissioner in last year’s election, said his biggest problem with the situation is Bocarsly’s participation in the election reform process.

“I don’t think it’s the place of an elected official – specifically USAC – to propose and then vote on this issue,” he said. “I think election code reform should be led by the Election Board, unbiased and unaffiliated students.”

But Bocarsly is acting within his role as USAC president in proposing election code reform. According to the election code, the Election Board chair must present any suggested change to the election code to USAC.

Bocarsly, however, said he stands by his involvement and is not trying to go over Pede’s head.

“If there is something that is supposed to come to a council vote, it is inappropriate for us not to take an opinion on it,” he said. “If we vote on it, it is our name attached to it. (The Election Board) is not held responsible for it, we are.”

Mallory Valenzuela, a fourth-year Asian American studies and sociology student and last year’s president of Samahang Pilipino, said she values the endorsement hearing process and thinks it should continue to be regulated and centralized with the Election Board.

“UCLA has thousands of student organizations – there has to be oversight,” she said.

Valenzuela, who attended the endorsement hearing last year as a representative for Samahang Pilipino, said she will try to attend the USAC meeting on Tuesday and hopes other students who have input on the proposals will too.

“This has long-term ramifications,” she said. “It won’t just affect us this year.”

Pede will present the pros and cons of both the Election Board’s own election reform proposal and Bocarsly’s to the Constitutional Review Committee, a subcommittee of USAC, today. Pede will then present the proposals again before all of the USAC officers on Tuesday before the councilmembers ultimately vote on which proposal to adopt, she added.

The USAC meeting is Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Kerckhoff 417. Meetings are open to the public.

Contact Jillian Beck at [email protected].

The Daily Bruin is hosting a Google Hangout with USAC President David Bocarsly and USAC Election Board chair Dana Pede to explain the two USAC election reform proposals tonight at 7 p.m. Tune in to dailybruin.com to watch the live broadcast of the Hangout, and submit questions leading up to the interview that you want us to ask Bocarsly and Pede by tweeting @dailybruin or emailing [email protected]

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