Seven of the independent candidates for the ASUC were brought before the ASUC Judicial Council for elections-related violations. All the recent candidates pleaded guilty to charges at their hearings, which were held Thursday and Friday.
The seven individuals, of whom five are elected officials, were subpoenaed to plead in person and were tried for filing campaign finance information late.
Student Advocate-elect Sophie Bandarkar, ASUC Senate candidates Billy Allocca, Stephanie Luna-Lopez, and Senators-elect Imran Khan, Regina Kim, Anna Whitney and Furry Boi, whose proxy is Stephen Boyle each pleaded guilty to failing to submit their campaign finance information by the posted deadline.
“It was pretty anticlimactic. In five minutes we were done,” Whitney said in regard to her individual hearing.
Derek Topper, who is a former distribution analyst for The Daily Californian, and Ashley Nelson were subpoenaed after election audits had their charges for the same violations dropped ahead of their hearings. Senate candidate Aaron Bryce Lee, who was charged with violating a bylaw that prohibits campaigning within university residential commons, accepted a plea bargain without a hearing and received two censures, said Maureen Ochi Sides, chair of the ASUC Judicial Council.
Each of the tried individuals received two to three censures by the Judicial Council, according to Ochi Sides, which falls below the five-censure limit that would otherwise require the removal of elected ASUC officials from their positions.
Whitney, who ran independently in this year’s ASUC Senate election, said the independent candidates charged with missing the deadline did so unintentionally, attributing the violations to a lack of communication from the Elections Council.
“It was all just a misunderstanding,” Whitney said. “And it felt like so much was stake, so it was really stressful.”
Whitney also said that because independent candidates are not backed by a party, runners acting on their own have less institutional knowledge and less capacity to complete audit reports. She added that in future elections, there ought to be more administrative support for independent candidates.
Elections Council prosecutor Ken Lohatepanont said deadlines for the campaign audit reports were not only articulated at the mandatory elections meeting but added that a handbook with campaign finance information was provided. Lohatepanont added that Freya Chun, chief elections auditor, opened office hours to candidates’ questions.
“Of course, we can always work to improve this process next year, and from what happened this year, we can work to emphasize more clearly the requirements for the audit,” Lohatepanont said. “But I do think that the requirements were made quite clear this year.”
Outgoing ASUC Senator Taehan Lee, who ran independently in last year’s ASUC elections, said he has spoken out in the past against the Judicial Council for requiring the prosecuted candidates to attend their hearings.
Lee said he believes the distribution of prosecuted candidates points to inequities in the elections system.
“If you notice, parties are not cited,” Lee said. “The rules are tailored to how parties go about campaigns.”