On April 22, the ASUCR judicial council chose not to validate the 2016 ASUCR election results, citing that the guidelines they operated under resulted in “an unfair environment” that allowed for reported incidents of laptopping and campaign violations. To rectify this situation, they have recommended that a new elections cycle take place with new stipulations, such as polling stations as the only way to vote.
Although the judicial council has offered a radical solution, it is fair and necessary due to the overwhelming circumstances that have resulted from negative campaigning and the unbanning of laptopping, which students have voiced concerns over. However, the timing of their solution — to hold re-elections — is problematic not in terms of the laws they have suggested, but in their logistics as the school year draws to a close.
With the legalization of laptopping during winter quarter, this year’s ASUCR elections were set up to create the circumstances that have occurred.This means that these circumstances were not merely incidental, but were bound to occur.
It is problematic that candidates were not held accountable for actions that disrespect the student body, such as one case that Justice Jo Gbujama referenced where a student denouncing an ASUCR candidate for laptopping was told, “You’re just one voice. Your opinion doesn’t matter” — a candidate who seeks to be a voice of the students. It is problematic that potential cases where students reported feeling harassed by laptopping and negative campaigning practices were dismissed, because there were no rules condemning such practices — only recommendations to not do so, which have proven ineffective.
These cases of laptopping and their dismissals demonstrate to the UCR student body that the structure that ASUCR operates on during elections is faulty with extensive need for repairs, especially if it cannot serve its function to maintain the concern and needs of its constituents — the student body. Yet, it is too late for repairs as the damage has been done this year. Students, such as the one told their voice didn’t matter, are left with only mistrust for their student body government.
The judicial council draws upon two powers to justify their decision, which are within their ability — no matter the stretch of interpretation. According to Part 5, Item 9, Section A, subsection 2 of the Election Bylaws, in addition to the elections director and the ASUCR executive director, “four (4) members of the Judicial Branch must compile the results, sign them for verification and post them at the ASUCR Office publicly.” And, according to the ASUCR Constitution, the judicial council has the ability to “review old legislation as needed to maintain the highest interest of the students and to assure that new legislation is consistent with ASUCR Constitution and Bylaws.”
So with the last power in mind, one question remains — why didn’t the judicial council step in earlier? While we applaud their willingness to not validate elections despite the stretch they had to make in their interpretations, we are left wondering why the judicial council did not invalidate the source of the problem — the unbanning of laptopping — last winter quarter. As the branch that serves as the check and balance to the overall governmental structure, why were actions against laptopping not made earlier?
Ideally, the solution to this circumstance brought on by laptopping to is to ban laptopping for subsequent elections. Allowing it to occur has only proliferated the issues that usually occur from it. And, with this year’s elections functioning with this unbanning, it makes sense to call for a re-election with bans on laptopping. Although the judicial council’s power to set election procedures is unfounded, as Vice President of Internal Affairs Michael Ervin points out, it is the duty of the senate according to Article 7, Section A of the Constitution, their proposed plans are a fair way to run re-elections without fear of repeating the same mistakes. Although mandatory polling stations will lessen voter turnout, they will ensure that laptopping will not occur.
But, if proposals for re-elections follow through, then planning must start soon due to the limited amount of time left in the school year. Measures such as shortening the campaigning season further for this special election or offering incentives for students to vote again may help to make the re-elections run smoother.
No matter if re-elections occur or not, an apology must be given for the events — the dismissal of cases brought by students about laptopping, the harassment students felt from the negative campaigning and the elimination of any language about laptopping from the bylaws — for the last elections as they compromised not only the results, but student voices.