USAC Election Board chair claims the council acted unconstitutionally
The Undergraduate Students Association Council Judicial Board conducted a hearing for a petition by the Election Board Chair Jack Price against USAC on Thursday. (Nathan Smith/Daily Bruin senior staff)
May 24, 2018 11:46 p.m.
The Election Board Chair claimed the undergraduate student government has violated its constitution by ordering the judicial board during its Tuesday meeting to accept a petition against the election board.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council Judicial Board held a hearing by petitioner Jack Price, election board chair, who claimed USAC violated its constitution by delaying the installation of the new council members and preventing them from carrying out their constitutional duties.
The election board presented the election results to the council during its May 15 meeting. However, following the revelation that Price overruled the board’s ad hoc investigative committee’s decision to disqualify Bruins United candidate Bella Martin, who was elected general representative and found to have engaged in voter coercion, the council tabled certifying the candidate election results and only certified the results of the referendum establishing the International Student Representative office.
On Tuesday, Debra Geller, the council’s administrative representative, and Roy Champawat, the Associated Students UCLA’s Student Union director, told the council the election board had already certified the results and that the council’s certification vote is a formality. However, council members disagreed and voted to override the judicial board’s decision not to review Petition 18-6, filed by Matthew William Richard and Ramneek Hazrah requesting the election board to issue a reasonable sanction for Martin’s case and for other complaint cases related to voter coercion and bloc voting.
Prior to the start of Thursday’s hearing, there was a brief dispute over whether USAC President Arielle Yael Mokhtarzadeh, who was not present at Tuesday’s council meeting, could serve as the council’s representative at the hearing. Mokhtarzadeh said the USAC constitution designates her as the chair of the Undergraduate Students Association but other council members said they had voted to select Facilities Commissioner Zahra Hajee in their GroupMe chat. After delaying the proceedings for about an hour, the judicial board allowed Hajee to serve as the council’s representative.
Price said current council members’ terms have ended and the actions it took during Tuesday’s meeting were unconstitutional because they occurred 365 days after they started their positions.
“The current council has extended their term,” he said.
Hajee said she thinks the certification of the election results should not be validated because the reading of the election results were not documented in the meeting minutes. The council’s minutes taker said during its Tuesday meeting she did not include election board’s announcement of the election results because she did not think it was important enough to include.
The election code states elected officials’ positions are effective once the election result announcement is read into the council’s meeting minutes and the incoming council members are sworn in by the judicial board.
Price argued the meetings are all recorded by the USAC live stream, and because that is more comprehensive than the minutes, it captured him reciting the election results on May 15.
Hajee said she thinks there is a three-step process for elected candidates to be installed. First, the election results must be presented by the election board chair, then the results must be certified by the council and lastly the new council members must be sworn in by the judicial board, she said.
The election code states the election board chair shall recommend the certification of the elected candidates to the council prior to the installation of the new council. Several council members who testified at the hearing said they interpreted the word “recommended” to mean the council should take an action on the presentation of the election results.
“(The council) assumed that it needs to be formally voted to be verified, just as we have done with other materials presented by election board, like the election calendar,” Hajee said.
Financial Support Commissioner Aaron Boudaie said the council has to vote to decide whether to accept the election board chair’s recommendation to certify.
“If you are recommending I’m going to date someone, I’m going to make the decision whether to date someone,” he said.
However, Price said the election code does not explicitly state that the council needs to vote to certify the election results.
“I don’t believe the representatives of the people can overrule the people themselves,” he said. “The current council is preventing the council from carrying out their constitutional duties.”
In response, the current council members said that by deciding whether or not to certify the election results they are fulfilling their constitutional duty to ensure a fair election.
General Representative 3 Justin Jackson said because USAC has followed the practice of certifying election results for several decades, that set a precedent for the council the follow.
“Fifty-plus years, the strongest precedent USAC truly does have,” Jackson said.
In his closing statement, Price asked the judicial board to nullify the council’s Tuesday vote ordering the judicial board to review a petition against the election board. He added the elected council should begin serving their terms on May 29.
Judicial Board Chief Justice Nicholas Yu said he could not say when exactly the board will release its ruling. The board’s decision could affect whether the board will continue to conduct a hearing Friday for a petition against election board that the council ordered it to review.