SOVAC Falsely Accused of Violations

    The Student Organized Voter Access Committee at UCSD is not under investigation for committing voter registration violation, despite allegations published in an article from the California Review, a conservative newspaper.

    The California Review story which appeared online on Nov. 5, claimed that SOVAC had violated registration protocol initiatives—such as handing out wristbands to newly registered voters—that could be construed as “paying” for votes, and therefore violating voter registration guidelines. It also claimed that the group was under investigation by the county registrar and could be subject to prosecution.

    “While efforts to increase the ranks of registered voters can be lauded, SOVAC has been doing so through efforts that violate state and federal election laws and are currently under investigation by the San Diego Registrar of Voters,” former California Review Editor-in-Chief Patrick Todd wrote in the story.

    Multiple sources have said that such claims are false and possibly falsified. On Tuesday, Darius Kemp, a spokesperson for the nine-campus UC Student Association, said that he had spoken with representatives from the California Secretary of State’s office, who said that there was no investigation in progress and that the California Review story relied heavily on falsified information.

    “There is no evidence of any investigation involving SOVAC at UCSD,” Kemp said. “Usually when someone is under investigation, they are the first to know. SOVAC has not received any letter from either the secretary of state or the San Diego Registrar of Voters.” San Diego Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler confirmed Tuesday that her office is not investigating SOVAC.

    “I am unaware of any investigation at UCSD,” Seiler said. “Unless SOVAC members [were] working as poll workers, which to the best of our knowledge, they were not, there isn’t anything to investigate.”

    Kemp said that everything that SOVAC did to encourage voter registration, including the wristband initiative, complied with registrar guidelines.

    “It’s absolutely OK to hand out incentives while you register voters, as long as you don’t deny the giveaways to people who don’t want to register,” Kemp said. “California Review has an ulterior motive to stop or discredit SOVAC’s efforts to register voters in San Diego.”

    SOVAC Executive Associate Kyle Heiskala affirmed that none of the group’s activities, including the wristband initiative, were violating any rules.

    “If we were under investigation, we would have been called and we haven’t been called,” he said. “I would not know why the California Review would specifically target our organization with false information.”

    California Review members posted a statement on its website late Monday night stating the SOVAC article had been published without proper fact-checking. As of press time, an updated version of the article has been posted on the website.

    California Review Editor-in-Chief Cody Dunn said that the paper’s editorial board maintains that the content of the story is true.

    “We are still in the process of updating the article and gathering our sources,” Dunn said. “We are not going to retract the article. We do believe it is correct.”

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