Student Court decides to nullify presidential and vice presidential votes

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The Student Court made an official ruling on the nullification of student government presidential votes on Sunday, May 27.

“We urge the Associated Students Organization to nullify the votes for the Vice-President in addition to invalidating the election results for ASO president, an official letter from student court justices Victoria Aguilar, Keyaira Branch, Shon Lewis and Mario Lopez said.

According to Article V Section 2 of the ASO Constitution, a minimum of three approved justices are needed for all court decisions. Four out of five student court justices agreed to this decision.

Approximately 400 student votes are being nullified by this decision, judicial court justice Thomas Magno said.

The Elections Committee of the Associated Students Organization (ASO) first decided to nullify the presidential votes on Friday, May 11, after realizing that all candidates had made campaign violations or were otherwise ineligible to hold the positions.

Specifically, candidates Joseph Mardesich and Andrew Leon were appointed into ASO on Thursday, March 29, 2018, meaning they had only been ASO members for six weeks by the time of the election. As a requirement, all executive officers must have participated in ASO for at least one semester before being appointed.

According to the official letter from the Student Court, the ASO Constitution By-Law 102 Section 1 states defines “one semester” as “the equivalent number of weeks in the fall and/or spring semesters as determined by the college’s academic calendar.”

Candidates Christine Hu and Jennifer Gutierrez were found to have used Inter-Club Council (ICC) resources to promote their campaign, including the use of the ICC email list, as well as the application “Remind.”

As a subsidiary of ASO, use of ICC resources alludes to a endorsement of their campaign by ICC, which is considered unethical, the official Student Court letter stated. Knowledge of this violatory use of resources came through a grievance filed by a member of ASO.

During the ASO meeting on Thursday, May 17, Gutierrez was still presumed to be the vice president elect, who is responsible for stepping into the position of president in the event that a president is not elected.

Upon learning about potentially stepping into that role, Gutierrez said, “ I personally don’t even want to be president. I don’t want that responsibility. That’s not what I personally signed up for.”

Despite the shakey circumstances of fulfilling the role of president, the Senate has still elected a full cabinet of representatives, who will be responsible for making decisions for the student government during the summer.

“(Some ASO members are) assuming that we won’t be able to make decisions over the summer,” director of academic affairs and Elections Committee member Bryant Odega said. “But we have a full cabinet, so it’s not like we’re going to start off half empty.”

After receiving a number of grievances just days after the election, members of the Elections Committee decided that the best route of action was to nullify the presidential votes and allow the cabinet to manage without a president until the fall semester.

“Both (votes) were skewed because of the violations that were made, to not just signs. There was also an abuse of Student Development resources,” Odega said. “Stuff that other candidates did not have, so that’s why we did agree to nullify. Otherwise, everyone would be disqualified.”

When the committee brought this information to the ASO Senate, they were met with backlash from other Senate members, who claimed that the Elections Committee did not hold the power to decide on nullification of votes.

“As chief justice, I don’t see this, giving you guys the authority as three people to decide whether to validate or invalidate results,” judicial court justice Thomas Magno said. “There is nothing here (in the Constitution) that says guidelines and rules from my interpretation.”

The final decision came from the Student Court, who stated in their official letter that, “Since the ASO Elections Committee has authority and power over the governance of the ASO Elections, the Student Court interprets this authority to include nullifying votes in the case(s) of which the candidate(s) have been disqualified and/or violated El Camino College Board Policy, ASO Policy, and/or U.S. and State law.”

As for the violations themselves, the Elections Committee took responsibility for a miscommunication between themselves and the candidates.

“(The) general election resulted in multiple violations of the election guidelines due to miscommunication between presidential candidates and the committee,” ASO business senator Vanessa Esguerra said. “Moreover there was a lack of committee oversight on presidential candidate eligibility.”

Despite the views of some ASO members who wanted to validate the general election votes and agree to clarify more during the next election, other members remained faithfully constitutional.

“The rules weren’t followed,” jucidial court justice Keyaira Branch said. “We need to look at the Constitution. We need to look at what’s right based on the Constitution and not based on our own personal feelings and our own personal emotions, which is why I think the election should be pushed back to fall.”

In the circumstance that votes are nullified, as is true in this case, a special election can be held in order to fill the vacancies.

It was the Elections Committee’s first thought to hold a special election before the end of the spring 2018 semester, but found that there was not enough time left in the semester for any election that followed ASO Constitution guidelines.

“As says under By-Law 703 Section 5, the Elections Committee shall make all required paperwork available to candidates at least five weeks prior to the first day of elections, Odega said. “Elections Committee shall also allow one week of campaigning prior to the first day of polling. As soon as these standards were not met it would not be possible for the committee to hold another general election.”

The official nullification of the presidential and vice presidential votes by the Student Court took place on Sunday, May 27, leaving only two weeks left in the semester.

Under these conditions, “The Constitution has steps for situations where there’s a vacancy for office of ASO president, which includes the VP (calling) a special election within 45 days,” Odega said.

It is uncertain who will call these special elections without an acting president or vice-president.

The next ASO Senate meeting takes place on Thursday, May 31, from 1 to 2 p.m. in Communications Building Room 109.

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