ASUCR elections have concluded with the passage of all three referenda items—ASUCR constitutional substitution, ASPB fee referendum and theater free referendum—and all 20 senate positions filled by [YOU]CR candidates. The goal of 20 percent student voting rates was exceeded with a total of 27.5 percent student participation (4693 votes).
“The 27.5 percent turnout for the ASUCR elections was remarkable! It was great to witness over a quarter of the student population using their empowered voice to elect their future ASUCR representatives…We cannot be more thrilled to see a more politically active student population,” stated Elections Chair Jonathan Mansoori in an interview with the Highlander. Graduate Student Association (GSA) results, however, only witnessed 16.9 percent voter participation. Henry Huang became the first GSA president to hail from UC Riverside’s Graduate School of Management.
Candidates from R’Voice, Students United and independent candidates were notably absent from the results; R’Voice candidates were the only outside party to be designated as “alternative” choices, meaning that they will fill any senate vacancies that may arise. The closest margin between an R’Voice alternate and an elected [YOU]CR student was 128 votes among BCOE students. The same gap for CHASS and CNAS candidates were 433 and 206, respectively.
The ASUCR constitutional substitution and ASPB fee referendum both passed with comfortable leads; the “yes” votes outnumbered the “no” votes by over 1,000 entries for these two referenda items. The ASUCR constitutional substitution will result in the restructuring of ASUCR elections and governance model, which includes the implementation of a three-branch body of government and a direct voting mechanism for specific senatorial positions. The ASPB fee will seek to improve student events and entertainment (including quarterly concerts) through $10 fee increases for 2012, 2015 and 2018. The theater fee referendum, which entails a $2.50 per quarter fee to subsidize the cost of student admission to campus theater events, passed by a slimmer margin of 282 more “yes” votes.
The high voter turnout for ASUCR elections was a particularly difficult feat due to a resolution passed in February that banned laptop campaigning on campus. The ban, which was enacted due to concerns that laptop campaigning unfairly pressured student voters, has prompted new controversy due to a loophole in the resolution. A video recently posted on YouTube revealed numerous [YOU]CR candidates—including those who were elected into office—engaged in laptop campaigning in front of the University Village Theater. The current version of the bill only bans laptop campaigning on campus property; since the theater is not university property, the activity does not fall under ASUCR jurisdiction.
“Our commission has discussed the possibilities of resolving the loopholes found in the current elections code…We are proposing to close physical campaigning in the future to within campus property only, more specifically within the campus loop,” stated Mansoori in an interview with the Highlander.
Others have noted that the current language of the elections code is such that the laptop campaigning at the University Village should still be subject to punishment. Item 5, Section J of the ASUCR Elections Code states, “ASUCR is not responsible for campaigning that happens on the internet or off campus unless it is considered ‘negative’ campaigning, bribery or otherwise unfair or criminal.”
The word, “unfair,” is being understood by some as encompassing the aforementioned laptop campaigning. “If ‘laptopping’ in areas near UCR isn’t considered unfair, then I don’t know what is…To solicit votes through laptops is unacceptable. Given that a handful of UCR students reside in areas such as the UVT, Sterling, etc., the same outcome is achieved whether the laptopping occurs on OR off-campus,” stated Kareem Shahin in an interview with the Highlander.
[YOU]CR, however, was not the only party whose activities prompted complaints. According to Mansoori, the elections committee received reports about Students United candidates engaging in soliciting at the library while R’Voice candidates threatened to engage in laptop campaigning in retaliation of [YOU]CR candidates’ actions.
The high turnout was also notable due to rainy conditions at the beginning of the week and malfunctions with the voting server. A campus-wide announcement notified students on Monday that the server, operated by a company that ASUCR has used for nearly 10 years, was not functioning and votes could not be submitted. According to members of the elections committee, the prospect of extending the voting period was considered but then dropped since it would require senate approval at the next meeting (which was over a week away).
The controversy surrounding elections committee members has continued with allegations of favoritism. The issue arose when it was revealed that [YOU]CR candidate sign-ups had not concluded until after the deadline. Mansoori responded by emphasizing that [YOU]CR was not given special privileges and that the extension was undertaken to resolve an error regarding duplicate party sheets.
Mansoori has specifically pointed out that no new candidates were added after the deadline. Nonetheless, former R’Voice candidate Kareem Shahin has insisted that Mansoori favored the [YOU]CR party through “leniency” and by socializing with members of [YOU]CR. “We do admit to talking and ‘speaking’ with [YOU]CR, but as well as to the other parties. Having a conversation with a party does not yield a miraculous vote in their favor on behalf of the elections commission,” stated Mansoori.
Elections committee member and current ASUCR Senator Derek Roberts also came in defense of Mansoori, stating, “[Mansoori] has spoken with all parties on multiple occasions, as have [Elections Committee member Yadira Navarro] and I. Some of the conversations were friendly, and some involved the parties voicing their concerns, and us responding to those concerns.”
Roberts himself was the subject of criticism after complaints were brought forth that one of Roberts’ Facebook posts was critical of R’Voice’s campaigning strategies. “As far as posting comments about my opinions, I have every right to say what I want outside of my elections commission duties. When it comes to remaining unbiased when dealing with accusations, I will do just that: remain unbiased,” stated Roberts in an interview with the Highlander.