Editor's Note: Since this brief was published, Central Student Judiciary said Bazzi-Walker's ticket should not warrant two major violations. For more information, visit this article.
Members of the LSA Student Government Executive Board expressed support for awarding major violations against LSA juniors Selena Bazzi and Josiah Walker in the LSA SG executive ticket race, which would disqualify them, according to an amicus curiae brief submitted to the Central Student Judiciary.
Bazzi and Walker won the April 1 and 2 election with 437 votes, 132 more than LSA juniors Jordan Schuler and Sai Pamidighantam, the other ticket in the race, according to a copy of the uncertified results shared with The Daily by LSA senior Tyler Ziel.
Hours after Bazzi’s GroupMe posts during the early evening of April 1, the opposing ticket reported them for violating the election code. All campaigning communication — besides telling people to vote, though not for a specific candidate — is prohibited.
Elections directors, LSA sophomore Natalie Suh and Ziel, ruled in the demerit report that each of these identical GroupMe posts would warrant a major violation but said to award two major violations would be too “draconian” for the violation. Each message was awarded a minor violation, meaning Bazzi and Walker received two demerits.
CSJ will decide on an appeal filed by Schuler and Pamidighantam, the other ticket in the race. Their appeal argues that GroupMe messages from Bazzi should have been considered major violations of the election code, not minor, as the election directors ruled them.
If CSJ were to overrule the elections directors ruling on the messages and make them major violations, Bazzi and Walker’s demerit count would move from two to six — over the four-demerit threshold for disqualification.
The appeal to this decision was filed by Schuler on April 10, raising concern over the elections directors’ unequal application of the rules to Bazzi and Walker and LSA senior Nicholas Bonde, a member of the LSA SG Counsel, who signed onto the brief. The board members also noted this discrepancy in rulings, saying the Ziel and Suh used “harsh and improper violation reporting.”
Schuler, who is currently a member of the LSA SG Executive Board, was the only member not signed on to the brief as he filed the appeal. Members of the board, including LSA SG President Brian Wang, an LSA senior, have previously expressed support for the Schuler and Pamidighantam ticket.
The Schuler and Pamidighantam ticket did not respond to The Daily’s request for comment. Bazzi and Walker declined to comment, citing the ongoing nature of the appeal.
In the brief, which was written in support of Schuler and Pamidighantam’s appeal, the board members wrote that the elections directors, Suh and Ziel, applied the rules inconsistently in this election cycle. The brief also stated that the board members were displeased with the elections directors’ decision to downgrade the major violations to minor violations out of fear of interpreting the rules too harshly.
The brief also noted that election directors are advised to seek counsel from LSA SG Exec. or CSJ when deciding on difficult reports, but those parties were not contacted.
Members wrote they were concerned that the broad use of the rules surrounding extenuating circumstances in elections could set a dangerous precedent in future elections.
“It is the view of LSA SG Exec that the ‘opinion of the Election Director’ seeing their judgement as ‘too draconian’, and therefore affecting the integrity of the election with their judgement, is not a luxury they can rely on in their employment to LSA SG,” the brief read. “Relying on personal definitions and interpretations of the procedural nature of our operation bylaws takes a heavy toll and creates an extremely dangerous precedent for future elections. It seems clear to LSA SG Exec that the Defendants were comfortable with identifying this issue as a Major Violation, however, the sudden change in tone, especially to this degree, is one that LSA SG Exec is not comfortable with.”
Daily News Editor Alex Harring can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.