In a battle between the ASUCD Court and the Elections Committee (EC) that finalized only yesterday, the EC permitted executive candidates Sergio Blanco and Vishakha Patel to appear on today’s ASUCD election ballot.
Yesterday at 2:30 p.m. Nick Sidney, EC chair, announced that the ASUCD bylaws rendered the court’s decision to remove the Blanco/Patel ticket from the ballot invalid. Bylaw 406F enabled him to make this certification.
“We are not willing to violate the ASUCD Constitution and Bylaws by denying the substantive right of a candidate to run for office and for students to vote for a candidate of their choice,” Sidney said in his certification of the winter 2010 ballot.
The controversy began after Blanco and Patel submitted their petition with only 231 valid signatures – 19 short of the required 250. The EC granted the candidates a 24-hour extension past the original deadline to acquire the remaining signatures.
The 24-hour extension is part of a policy put in place prior to this election by the EC, Sidney said.
“Part of the reason I supported the extension was because anyone that picked up a packet was notified of [the 24-hour extension] policy in advance,” Sidney said.
Shortly after EC granted the extension, ASUCD vice president Chris Dietrich filed a short-lived complaint regarding the extension.
“After reflecting on it, I decided that it would be unfair for candidates to be eliminated in that way,” Dietrich said. “I still do have concerns about the rules, but I think that there are both sides to it, so we should just let the election go forward.”
Sophomore animal science major Daniel Golden pursued the complaint. Golden is not involved in any ASUCD units or commissions.
“I think they shouldn’t be given a 24-hour extension, because the ASUCD bylaws state that the elections committee only has the power explicitly given to them, and this extension isn’t specifically included,” Golden said.
Golden became familiar with the situation after his roommate, vice Court Justice Ryan Meyerhoff, informed him of the lack of signatures. Meyerhoff has since stepped out of the case because of his relation to Golden.
In the court hearing, Golden v. ASUCD Elections Committee, the court ruled in favor of Golden, invalidating the EC’s certification of the Blanco/Patel ticket and ordering that the ticket not appear on the ballot.
In the court’s official opinion, they cited bylaw 405, which states that executive tickets must obtain 250 signatures and the pertaining ID numbers of those signatures. The validity of those signatures results in the certification of the candidate, pending all other eligibility checks. They also cited bylaw 402, which states that the EC does not have power beyond the bylaws.
“We therefore find that the Elections Committee acted outside of its tightly circumscribed powers in extending the deadline by which the satisfactory official petition should be returned,” the opinion said.
Meyerhoff concluded that the decision to remove the Blanco/Patel ticket was a proper extension of the court’s power.
“If the U.S. Supreme Court says to do X, and the Congress doesn’t enforce it, then what? The Court has ultimate authority in decisions, and the other bodies of government are duty-bound to follow it,” he said.
In response to the Court’s decision, some individuals took action to overturn the removal of Blanco/Patel. ASUCD president Joe Chatham wrote a letter in support of Sidney’s decision to allow the Blanco/Patel ticket to appear on the ballot.
Blanco himself sought legal counsel and considered suing the university for violating his right to due process. Should the court maintain the case, Blanco and Patel will challenge the action of the court.
“The whole court process was demeaning because I had to sit there and couldn’t speak up on my own behalf,” Blanco said. “The decision of the court directly affected me, the defendant. But I was not put on trial.”
He also viewed the court’s decision to eliminate his ticket a personal attack, and as a method of fixing the election so that LEAD executive candidates Jack Zwald and Previn Witana could win.
“One of the arguments for this happening was that it puts other candidates at a disadvantage, but none of the candidates complained about the extension,” Blanco said. “No one on the LEAD side spoke up, so it seems like they’re trying to fix the election.”
In response, Meyerhoff stated that this was not the case, and that he was merely doing his job.
“As a justice, I want to see the constitution enforced,” Meyerhoff said. “[The court] can only act on petitions sent to us.”
Sidney agreed that the decision lacked due process, and that if the court pursues Blanco and Patel’s ticket, they must also pursue all other candidates who have benefited from the 24-hour policy.
“We laid the 24-hour policy out in fall quarter, and no one challenged it when the policy was announced – only after we acted on the policy,” Sidney said. “We did act on this policy in fall quarter, and no one challenged it then.”
Polls open today at 8 a.m. on the ASUCD elections website, elections.ucdavis.edu.
LAUREN STEUSSY and MICHELLE IMMEL can be reached at email@example.com.