Two USAC representative seats left unfilled after alleged election code violation
Undergraduate Students Association Council Election Board chair Kyana Shajari resigned Tuesday. USAC postponed the confirmation of students who were voted in as general representatives 2 and 3 after a potential election code violation during campaigning came to light. (Marilyn Chavez-Martinez/Daily Bruin senior staff)
Nov. 6, 2019 3:48 a.m.
This post was updated Nov. 6 at 6:42 p.m.
Two undergraduate government seats remain unfilled following the undergraduate council’s meeting Tuesday.
The judicial board chief justice chose not to swear in two newly elected representatives at the meeting amid allegations that one violated election rules. At the same meeting, the election board chair resigned during a discussion of her performance.
Undergraduate Students Association Council Election Board chair Kyana Shajari resigned at the council meeting as USAC members were expressing their disapproval with how the fourth-year psychology student managed the election. Two election board members also told the Daily Bruin after the meeting they would be resigning as well.
Before the discussion, USA Judicial Board Chief Justice Jamail Gibbs chose not to swear in newly elected general representatives Orion Smedley and Brandon Broukhim during the meeting, amid allegations Smedley violated the election code during his campaign.
Newly elected Financial Supports Commissioner Millen Srivastava was still sworn in, because of an unprecedented bylaw change passed during the meeting by the council that allowed Gibbs to swear in members individually rather than as a group.
USAC held a fall special election for three unfilled seats because not enough candidates ran during the 2019 spring election. Shajari oversaw that election as well, replacing the previous chair Richard White who was removed by the council eight weeks before the election ended.
Despite the election’s purpose to fill three vacant seats, two remain vacant after Tuesday’s meeting. Administrative Representative Debra Geller asked the council at the beginning of the meeting to begin the process of swearing in the newly elected representatives before proceeding. The council did not.
“There’s been a disservice to students broadly having vacant seats this long,” Geller said to the council. “So further intentionally delaying the introduction of the elected officers and allowing them to begin to engage and represent those who voted for them seems contrary to any intent.”
An incomplete council
Smedley allegedly violated the election code by improperly campaigning on the Hill. Shajari said she does not believe that he violated any campaign rules. However, Smedley’s actions remain in question by the council and will be reviewed by the judicial board at a later date.
Transfer Student Representative Isabel Oraha recommended on behalf of the USAC Constitutional Review Committee that the council approve the bylaw change because the potential violation may call the election results’ validity into question.
“We don’t believe this election has any integrity if this bylaw is not changed,” Oraha said.
Smedley, a third-year physics student, said in a statement to The Bruin that he thinks the will of the student body and the students who voted for him was ignored by USAC.
Smedley alone is alleged to have violated the election code, but Gibbs also deferred swearing in Broukhim because his election status may be affected if Smedley is found in violation.
USAC elections follow a single transferable vote system for general representative positions, which has voters rank all candidates. Broukhim, who was chosen as general representative 3, may move to general representative 2 or may not be a general representative at all if Smedley is disqualified or otherwise has his results changed, according to USAC President Robert Watson.
Broukhim, a third-year history and public affairs student, said he was not completely aware of the allegations against Smedley and would defer to the outcomes of any proceedings that happen.
“Obviously I hope to get into office as soon as possible, but I’ll let council and whatever (judicial) board case comes up, I’ll let that go through and I look forward to joining the council as soon as I can,” Broukhim said.
The judicial board will review and decide on the allegations against Smedley.
Shajari said she resigned because she thinks the council has unrealistic expectations for election board chairs and said she felt the council was out to get her, seeing as it held a meeting in the summer regarding her continued appointment as election chair.
“It feels targeted, and it feels like they were out to get me from the beginning,” Shajari said. “It feels very politically motivated. … It’s just so upsetting, and it’s fine because I chose to resign because I wanted to control my own narrative. … Nothing is good enough to them.”
Shajari cited a limited budget for the election board during the council meeting, but councilmembers said they did not believe that was a valid reason for the lack of programming since other campus organizations are able to fund programming with similarly tight budgets.
The USAC Office of the President has hosted several events during the election season to promote the election.
After the meeting, the vice chair of the election board, Shant Eulmessekian, and the board’s publicity director, Salena Nguyen, told The Bruin they plan to resign as well. The remaining board member is Samad Afzal, the investigations director, who was not present at the meeting.
Shajari resigned while responding to questions from the council about her performance as election chair. During the discussion of Shajari, it cited low voter turnout, lack of outreach to the student body and the low turnout to the election debate, which was hosted by the election board. About 30 students attended the debate held Oct. 24 in the De Neve Auditorium, a room meant for over 470 people.
Just over 9% of undergraduate students voted in the fall special election. Regular USAC elections, held in spring quarter, have never dipped below a double-digit turnout rate in at least the last 10 years. However, regular elections are held for all council positions – currently 15 – rather than the three in the fall special election.
Watson said the council plans to search for a new election board chair immediately.