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Submission: Disqualifying USAC candidates without sufficient evidence would be unethical

By Jack Price

May 24, 2018 11:34 pm

Last week, the outgoing Undergraduate Students Association Council voted to table the ratification of the 2018 election results. The council disagreed with my decision to not disqualify three candidates. The USAC Election Board’s ad hoc investigations committee found that two of those candidates had committed voter coercion and one had invaded a voter’s privacy.

My own investigative committee also disagrees with my decision. But I stand by what I did.

Many, both within and without the election board, have said that I require an unnecessarily high burden of proof to disqualify a candidate for voter coercion. They say that I shouldn’t need to be absolutely certain to disqualify these three candidates.

I agree.

I don’t need to be 100 percent certain. However, the standard the election board members all agreed to was a preponderance of evidence, which, to me, requires at least 51 percent confidence in the finding.

We did not have a preponderance of evidence, however. Provided with only an allegation and a denial of voter coercion, I can’t even pretend to get past 50-50. The election board interviewed both the filer and defendant multiple times, and saw both of their testimonies change in different instances. As such, I can’t help but weigh their accounts evenly.

To conclude that one account is more likely true than another – a preponderance – requires at least one additional witness to corroborate any one account. The election board didn’t have that corroborating witness or direct evidence when voting closed three weeks back, and we haven’t had an account from one since.

But that didn’t stop the Daily Bruin Editorial Board from jumping to conclusions about our May 5 findings. It didn’t stop my executive committee from deciding that we’d made a mistake. And it doesn’t seem to have held sway with the rest of my ad hoc investigations committee or with USAC. They all believe I should have issued a reasonable sanction for findings of voter coercion.

But what would constitute a “reasonable sanction?” Would disqualification be reasonable sanction, based on the evidence provided and the effect of the violation on the election results? Should one allegation outweigh, in the case of the one alleged transgressor who won, 1,936 votes?

I firmly believe the answer is no. The ad hoc investigations committee – which I impaneled and am a member of – voted near-unanimously that it should. I was the one dissenting vote regarding two of the candidates, and after originally casting a vote to disqualify a third, I decided that I was wrong in that instance as well.

But herein lies the impasse: I am not just a dissenting voice, but also the one person the election code invests with final say over the election board’s actions.

I couldn’t help but think: Would silencing thousands of voters really preserve the integrity of the election?

My principles and irreconcilable reservations tell me no. And while the administrative meddling that our Student Organizations, Leadership & Engagement adviser alerted me about factored into my thoughts, I would not have overruled the investigations committee’s decision if I did not have those deep and enduring reservations. In the end, per the election code, the buck stops with me.

The election – and thus, student representation on this campus – is paralyzed. The voters have gone two weeks without the very representation they voted for, and there is reason to believe they could remain without it well into the fall quarter. I am completely understanding of the need to enforce the rules and uphold the integrity of the elections. But within the election board and on the council, there seems to be an overriding impulse to send an emphatic message, and the council has bent over backward – blasting past their term limits, suspending their own bylaws to force the ostensibly independent judicial board to reopen a case – to avoid ratifying the results as they stand.

This needs to be resolved.

My own vice chair tells me that I am the only wrench in the gears, that I should recuse myself, let the committee I impaneled reach its inevitable conclusion and finish my term with reputation and resume intact.

But I didn’t take this job to polish my image or bolster my resume. I took the job of election board chair because I believe in the power and sanctity of a democratic election. I’m also greatly troubled that recusing myself would set a dangerous precedent, one that would reduce the very authority granted to future election board chairs by the election code and USAC.

I have decided against recusing myself, and, lacking what I’m convinced is a preponderance of evidence, I won’t put my stamp on what I believe to be a subversion of the voters’ will. The election code I swore to uphold forbids it.

Price is the chair of the USAC Election Board.

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