Sunday, May 24

Petitioners claim election board failure to appropriately sanction for voter coercion

Judicial Board justices Leann Pham, Abigail Chapman and Jamail Gibbs listen to arguments in the case alleging the election board did not properly issue a sanction for voter coercion. (Amy Dixon/Assistant Photo editor)

This post was updated May 26 at 5:36 p.m.

Petitioners alleged the undergraduate student government election board did not issue a reasonable sanction for voter coercion at a judicial board hearing Friday.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council Judicial Board heard a petition filed by Ramneek Hazrah and Matthew Richard against the election board following a vote by the council Tuesday overruling the judicial board’s previous decision to decline to review the petition. In the petition, Hazrah claims the election board violated a variety of election code articles, the USAC constitution and order 18-4 previously issued by the judicial board.

In order 18-4, the judicial board ordered the election board to investigate complaint case and issue a reasonable sanction sanction for Sanction Case 59, which alleged that Bruins United candidates Bella Martin and Victoria Solkovits coerced students to vote. After conducting a reinvestigation, the election board’s ad hoc investigative committee found that Martin and Solkovits engaged in voter coercion and voted to disqualify Martin, who was elected general representative. However, Price overruled the committee’s decision because he felt there was not enough evidence to disqualify her.

During the hearing, Hazrah said the election board did not properly use evidence and testimony submitted to it.

Sue Han, one of the petitioner’s witnesses, said that although she had testimony claiming that Bruins United then-presidential candidate Claire Fieldman approached students to garner votes during a party Thursday of election week, during its interview with her, the election board instead asked her questions about other Bruins United candidates.

“They didn’t mention (Sigma Alpha Epsilon), they didn’t mention Claire Fieldman,” she said.

Christine Yu, one of the petitioner’s witnesses who worked on Bruins United candidate Aneri Suthar’s campaign, said that she was uncomfortable with some of the campaigning tactics Suthar used, including soliciting votes at parties.

“That was something that I was never comfortable with,” she said. “I even questioned them – ‘Is this sanctionable?’”

Yu said she emailed the election board a link to the campaign’s Google Drive, but received no repsonse from the board. Election Board Vice Chair Mher Mkrtchian, who was representing the board at the hearing, said that although the board received Yu’s email, the link opened to a screenshot that he said was not sufficient for the board’s investigation.

Matthew Richard, who has filed petitions with Hazrah against election board in the past, said he submitted more than 40 different images to the election board that he thinks corroborate claims of voter coercion. He added the election board originally told him they wanted to schedule an interview with him, but later did not respond to his emails.

Price said that the evidence Richard provided was circumstantial and did not show that voter coercion had occurred or that candidates had the intent to coerce votes.

“None of it was direct evidence of voter coercion,” he said. “It alluded to campaign procedures, party leaders exhorting their fellow candidates to campaign.”

Price said during the hearing that he was impartial during his decision-making process and that he issued no sanction for Sanction Case 59, because he believed that was the most reasonable sanction after campaigning had ended.

“Our ability to issue a reasonable sanction is limited by the time that passes,” he said. “I don’t think any one body should be allowed to overrule the will of the people.”

He added that if the board had more evidence against Martin, he would have considered disqualifying her.

“If we had a corroborating witness I would have been more comfortable,” he said.

This is the second hearing in the past week, and the petition reviewed during Thursday’s hearing challenged the council’s decision to force the judicial board to hold Friday’s hearing.

News editor

Bharanidaran is the News editor. He was previously a news reporter for the campus politics beat, covering student government and the UCLA administration.

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