The 2022-2023 ASUCR general student body election has concluded with the results announced. To view these results in detail, you can visit the elections instagram page, @asucr_elections, or the Highlander’s instagram, @thehighlanderucr. However, most notable result was the asterisk that denoted a candidate for Vice President of Finance, Lina Nguy, to be ineligible for her position, although she garnered a total of 2,578 votes. This is in comparison to her opponent and the declared winner Christian Martinez who only garnered 1,554. Nguy, along with the candidate for Executive President, Mufida Assaf, elaborated on their experiences with this year’s elections and detailed what they believed to be numerous instances of injustice that they have dealt with. Former Elections Director of the 2021-2022 academic year, Lama Yassine, also provided insight on the situation.
In this year’s election cycle, the elections committee established a set of new rules for candidates to follow, one of which was that candidates were not allowed to make endorsements publicly. Lina Nguy, for a span of five hours, had reposted five candidates on her Instagram. The elections committee voted that it was a violation and sent it over to the Judicial Council, who received the case and voted it to be five strikes, with one strike given per post. As a consequence, Lina Nguy was disqualified from the ASUCR general student body election.
In regards to the implementation of the rule itself, Nguy noted that she only saw it in an email sent to the candidates and Yassine explained that, “The elections committee gave candidates a verbal rule to follow, meaning that the rule was not in the elections code. The election code should have had the rule written in as it is already complicated enough to constantly update the bylaws throughout the elections.”
“The rules that Judicial is using to claim that the election results are invalid are not listed in the elections code… there is no such rule written about endorsements, and the rules given by the committee outside of the MCW (Mandatory Candidate’s Workshops) are not required to be enforced,” explained Yassine. It should be noted that this particular rule was not established in an MCW, but was denoted in an email sent two weeks after. This email, written by current elections director, Tricia Sarmiento, had the campaign regulation bolded, underlined and highlighted and also stated, “This is a lengthy email, so please take the time to read the full email.”
Nguy explained that she was not notified of any decisions made regarding her status as a candidate until the Thursday before the original voting deadline through an email from the Judicial Council with a notice of disqualification. In the elections and judicial code, as explained by Yassine, a candidate with a violation or strike is entitled to a trial and the right to appeal the verdict of any judicial outcome. Despite submitting an appeal request, she was never granted her right to one by the Judicial Council.
Nguy explained that once she was notified, she submitted an appeal within a 5 day time frame and with the elections director’s signature. However, she stated that this response was ignored by the judicial council for a certain amount of time before being ultimately rejected. A deliberation occurred on Friday, April 29, 2022 to discuss whether her case will be dismissed or if the decision to reject her appeal will be overturned, which would reopen the case. A statement will be released by the Judicial Council in the following week’s senate meeting that will detail their official response regarding the whole situation.
Both Lina Nguy and recently elected ASUCR Executive President, Mufida Assaf, detailed their experiences with communicating with the Judicial Council, which they described as poor. Both described their difficult experiences with their lack of contact and saw themselves as being ignored. Nguy stated that she, “had to go out of my way to reach out to them,” alluding to how she described the untimely response to her appeal.
Assaf also dealt with a number of strikes for violations that she felt were unjust as well. One of the instances described by her was a strike given to her using a ladder for hanging posters. Nothing in the elections code or bylaws goes against using a ladder and the strike itself was given due to a violation of campus policies, despite the ladder being given by a HUB employee. Assaf detailed in her interview that she took many precautions to avoid committing violations including reviewing the elections code and inquiring to the elections director. Another instance that was considered a violation was her usage of gift bags as being cited as “non-promotional,” even though other candidates also utilized gift bags despite not being striked for it. In addition, Assaf was asked to take down her banner in the HUB, even though it was a donation which is allowed under elections rules.
Yassine commented on Nguy’s disqualification and made it clear that from her perspective, this was considered unjust. “This is unprecedented as in the past, specifically last year’s ASUCR general body election, strikes that resulted in disqualification of an ECAB candidate were reassessed to ensure that they were not disqualified as having multiple serious candidates is imperative to allowing the students to have options. Disqualification of a candidate is severe and only relevant in scenarios where the candidate is found guilty of malicious intent or not meeting the basic requirements, including GPA etc, most definitely not in cases of petty violations, including endorsements,” Yassine explained. “Honoring the democratic election of the students has and always will be the only way that ASUCR officials will be decided, and nobody will stand in the way of that”.
“Remove the three strikes. The three strikes rule does not allow for candidates to make any errors and does not leave room for candidates to make mistakes and make it open for petty violations that are politically motivated, as you can observe through this situation,” Yassine expressed. “The consequences need to weigh the same as the violation. A case by case verdict is more appropriate, than a hard set rule.”
Yassine expressed to the student body, “If you believe in the students choosing their ASUCR representatives, I urge you to take action… express yourselves to your current ASUCR officials, to ASUCR Judicial and the Highlander. The power is yours.”