Freshly appointed election board chair hopes to rewrite election code
The Undergraduate Students Association Council voted 10-2-1 to approve Richard White, a former USAC presidential candidate and fourth-year political science student, as election board chair. (Liz Ketcham/Assistant Photo editor)
By Anush Khatri
Oct. 31, 2018 1:44 a.m.
This post was updated Oct. 31 at 2:33 p.m.
A former undergraduate student government presidential candidate was appointed election board chair Tuesday night.
Richard White, a fourth-year political science student and the Leaders Influencing Tomorrow presidential candidate in the 2018 Undergraduate Student Association Council elections, was confirmed by the council in a 10-2-1 vote after three hours of debate.
White’s appointment comes four weeks after the week one deadline mandated by USAC’s bylaws, with applications for the position opening in the summer.
The election board chair is responsible for regulating USAC elections, in part through its bylaws. The council, including USAC President Claire Fieldman, has said it plans to rewrite election code to include more specific penalties for violations of the code. The effort to rewrite the code comes after the board failed to issue a sanction against Bella Martin, current USAC general representative 2, for engaging in voter coercion in the 2018 USAC elections.
During the hearing, White fielded questions from council members about conflicts of interest, his goals for the position and about his ability to include others in election board.
As election board chair, White said his main goals are to increase voter turnout, reform the election board code and assemble a diverse election board.
“I believe the e-board has to be present all throughout the year, not just for facial recognition,” White said. “It should be more, ‘This is what the e-board can offer you.’ This is a body on campus that is supposed to service the students.”
Ashraf Beshay, a sixth-year biology student, said he believes White failed to recuse himself despite a conflict of interest while on a student funding committee.
“(White’s choice to not recuse himself) caused discomfort in the committee and a feeling White did not properly understand conflicts of interest,” Beshay said.
White said Beshay was a racist for opposing his nomination and the nomination of another black student in 2017.
Beshay did not have the opportunity to respond.
General Representative 1 Ayesha Haleem recounted her experience being cornered after dealing with a judicial board hearing when she had to enforce rules against a referendum meant to help communities she identifies with. She said White should not throw around terms like racism casually.
Other students in the council room said they supported White and interjected their comments with those from the councilmembers.
Fieldman and other council members have said they would prefer candidates who have not been involved in campus politics in the past.
In an email statement, Fieldman said running in an election does not necessarily denote heavy involvement in campus politics. She added she thinks White’s former candidacy serves as an asset rather than a detriment.
Haleem said she thinks some experience with an election board or body was necessary given the goal to rewrite the code. She added she hopes White can use his prior political experience to help get more of the campus community involved in fixing the code.
“I remember one of the most distinguishing parts of my time in election board was that there was a open door in Kerckhoff for community members to contribute their thoughts,” Haleem said.
Fieldman, who appointed White, said in an email statement she thinks an updated election code will be completed before the start of election season in winter quarter.
Haleem, who was part of election board during the 2015-2016 school year, said the board could not fully rewrite the code due to time constraints and should focus on fixing ambiguities in the code instead.
“I think that the code itself is very ambiguous and it just really depends on how the election board chair at that time views it,” Haleem said. “Even for penalties, it says ‘as deemed appropriate’ by the election board chair.”
White said he believes a rewrite of election code can be done before the beginning of this year’s election.
“It has to happen,” White said. “The council appointed me because they had the belief and they know I will get that done once the right team is assembled and we can all have those conversations.”