ASUC Aims to Reform Campaign Rules to Avoid Repeat of Last Year's Election Debacle





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As student government officials return from the winter break, they are determined to make sure this year's ASUC elections are not a repeat of last year's unending scandals.

Wally Adeyemo

As if following the lead of the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election, the student government elections last spring wound up in ASUC judicial hearings. For weeks, it seemed there was no end to the political bickering and legal wrangling.

Many candidates were initially thrown out of the race by the ASUC Judicial Council, whose members were later accused of bias. When the Student Action party's entire slate of candidates was thrown out, tempers flared and the entire election was called into dispute. Campaign officials even filed suits against the ASUC in Alameda County Superior Court.

Many charged meetings later, and after resignations from Judicial Council members and the disqualification of many major candidates, the Student Action party was reinstated and the results of the election were released. It was a hotly divided contest-Student Action dominated the executive office races for the third year in a row, but independents and the small parties won big in the senate.

Bret Heilig

The tumultuous election, which some officials said nearly destroyed the student government, forced the newly elected leadership to question the ASUC's rules for campaigning and elections procedures. And with just four months remaining before the system will again be put to the test, officials are planning major reforms.

"I think our election laws are confusing and outdated and something we need to revise," said Wally Adeyemo, president of the ASUC and Student Action member.

Adeyemo and last year's elections chair, Bret Heilig, each have their own plans to reform the elections, suggesting that process may also be hindered by partisanship.

Heilig plans to reintroduce a bill, which he says will close some loopholes in the ASUC election laws. Heilig co-wrote the bill with former Attorney General Nathan Quigley.

The 20-page bill would reorganize the ASUC elections policies, including setting up a new system for penalizing candidates who break the rules.

In the past, Heilig noted, the judicial council would punish candidates with one to three censures per violation of the election laws. The extent of the punishment was not always related to the severity of the crime, Heilig said.

Under current elections rules, it takes three censures to disqualify a candidate or entire party from the election.

The new bill, Heilig said, would set up a tiered system, matching each violation with a number of censures. For example, posting campaign flyers over a student group's postings would be punishable by three censures. But forgetting to turn in a campaign receipt would receive only one censure. In Heilig's proposed system, a candidate would be disqualified after receiving five censures.

"We've made some things tougher, and some things looser, depending on what was necessary," Heilig said.

But ASUC Senator Sajid Khan is worried that Heilig's bill makes rules more lenient.

"(The bill) gives too much room for candidates to mess around and make big mistakes and still remain in the election," Khan said.

The bill has met opposition because it would legalize campaigning in the dorms and allow candidates to make false statements in campaign literature. But Heilig said making those actions illegal violates free speech as defined in the ASUC Constitution's Bill of Rights.

ASUC President Adeyemo wants to write a rival bill to revise the elections code. He has yet to formulate a concrete idea behind a reform bill, and will introduce his own plan after consulting with a group of senators and top leaders.

Adeyemo said his ultimate goal is to "make (the rules) easier for candidates to run."

But any changes to the elections laws should not take effect until the 2003 election, Adeyemo said, to avoid politicizing the process.

Khan, however, said if the goal is to inspire reform, then the changes in the bylaws should go into effect this year.

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