Complaints Delayed Election Results

    The annoucement of this year’s election results held to tradition. Each slate gathered at Round Table Pizza on campus, waiting for the elections committee to release the final tally. Everything was the same, except one thing: The results were six hours late.

    Greg Dale/Guardian
    Top: Eddie Herrera is speechless after his win is announced. Below: Thurgood Marshall College Student Council Chair Denis Shmidt (center) explains his grievance to presidential candidates Daniel Watts (left) and Harry Khanna.

    Before the election, friends Daniel Watts and Harry Khanna made a pact that while running against one another for the A.S. president position, they would work out all but the most serious grievances through mutual discussions without filing formal charges.

    For much of last week’s campaign, the agreement held fast. But at the 11th hour of April 14, the elections committee was inundated with formal grievances filed by both candidates, each alleging that his opponent’s slate, Watts’ Tritons United! and Khanna’s Student Voice!, had violated the rules of the election. The agreement was off.

    Khanna filed an official grievance against Watts on April 13, which served as the initial catalyst, alleging that through the congressional campaign of John Muir College alumnus Bryan Barton, Watts sent an e-mail to voters containing malicious lies and libel about SV!. Khanna said that this filing did not break his agreement with Watts.

    “The agreement was that there would be no grievances unless the other party violated a bylaw a) with malicious intent, or b) that could plausibly change the outcome of the election,” Khanna said. “[The e-mail] satisfied one or both of those conditions, so a grievance from us was consistent with our agreement.”

    Watts has denied involvement in the e-mail, saying that he was not its author and that Khanna’s only evidence against him was that Watts knew Barton.

    In response to the formal charge, Watts unleashed more than 20 grievances of his own on April 14 against Khanna and SV!, including alleged violations of posting rules and voluntary spending limits.

    “Now that the corruption of [Khanna’s] slate has been exposed, they will be wary of doing any other illegal things,” Watts said.

    As 4:30 p.m. —­ with half an hour after the voting had ended — passed and with elections results yet to be announced, both slates waited anxiously near the A.S. offices for word from the elections committee about what would happen next. The tension of the situation was palpable, as candidates from SV! gathered on one side of the hall and those from TU! on the other.

    The committee then announced that a formal hearing would take place on the grievances. After the uneasy candidates accumulated in the hearing room, where the opposing slates sat directly facing each other, the waiting and stressing continued.

    “It was pretty tense in there,” Khanna said. “A lot of people in there were holding their breaths while [the elections committee] decided what to do.”

    After nearly an hour of negotiations and a 30-minute break, Khanna and Watts announced that they had dropped the charges against each other.

    The sole remaining issue was a formal charge filed by Thurgood Marshall College Student Council Chair Denis Shmidt. Earlier in the week, Shmidt alleged that Watts had printed libel in his publication More Truth About UCSD. After negotiations, the two made an informal written agreement that TU! would end campaigning and take down its campaign advertising four hours before the polls closed. If it did not, the agreement dictated that the slate would be in violation of an official bylaw that forbids making false statements to the elections committee. When the deadline passed and the TU! Web site, Facebook group and some campaign flyers remained up, Shmidt filed a formal grievance.

    “In the end, I decided that it was absolutely necessary to file the charge that I did in order to maintain the rules in not only this election, but future elections as well,” Shmidt said.

    After hearing a statement by Khanna — which slammed Watts for running a “dishonest” campaign — the elections committee heard arguments from Shmidt and Watts. The committee then deliberated for an hour and ruled that TU! had broken the agreement violating the bylaw, and that sanctions should be imposed. The punishments required TU! to outline its violations to students on Library Walk, through Facebook advertisements, in a letter to the editor to the Guardian and to the current and new A.S. Council.

    Watts downplayed the punishments, and suggested that he may not take part in them personally.

    “They’re not a big deal,” he said. “Whoever has time will do it.”

    Shmidt said that while he was satisfied with the committee’s ruling, he was concerned that the committee may not have the power to enforce it.

    “If Tritons United! decides not to do the sanctions, can the elections committee reconvene and disqualify the members of Tritons United! who won?” Shmidt said. “There is no clear-cut answer, so it could potentially become tricky.”

    In the end, both presidential candidates said that they felt the committee had acted fairly. They did not have the same kind words for each other.

    “His entire campaign was based on spreading lies about me and Student Voice!,” Khanna said. “The saddest part was that the people running with him on Tritons United! believed what he was saying about us and started echoing the lies themselves.”

    One thought, though, transcended the animosity and seemed to be shared by everyone involved in the election: relief that it was over.

    “I wish the election could have been less nasty,” Marshall Elections Manager and Senior Senator Kate Pillon said. “But it’s over, so I’m happy.”

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