Photo Credits: SHEREEN LEE / AGGIE
Information on over 800 students gathered for 2018 June primaries used nine months later to campaign for school election
The inappropriate use of student contact information by Davis College Democrats (DCD) in efforts to encourage students to vote for the BASED slate in the 2019 ASUCD Winter Elections has escalated into a situation outside of ASUCD’s purview, and is now being handled externally.
The Elections Committee today determined no violation points can be assessed because there was no violation of the ASUCD Bylaws or the constitution. The committee sent the case to Student Judicial Affairs for further evaluation.
“While there may be implications regarding federal election laws, there are no systems in place within the Association to lead to further action taken by the committee,” Elections Chair Rodney Tompkins said.
In June of last year, as part of its efforts to register students to vote in advance of the 2018 primaries, members of DCD asked students to sign a pledge card. In doing so, students would receive notifications from DCD to be reminded to vote on Measure J, the Nishi housing project, on the June Ballot, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
The source says DCD collected the names, emails and phone numbers of over 800 students for its “Yes on J database.” DCD then used that information, nine months after it was collected, to reach out to students and encourage them to vote for BASED in the recent ASUCD elections.
“Individuals whose information was collected by consent on these pledge cards […] was only to use for Measure J, as that is what the card said and what individuals who signed it were told,” the source said.
DCD publicly endorsed only BASED candidates on its Facebook page. According to the anonymous source, DCD — and specifically the group’s Executive Director Aaron Latta — worked as the main communications team for BASED, directly assisting with outreach efforts.
Latta did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication.
The source also stated that Justin Hurst and Shreya Deshpande, who ran on the BASED slate and were today elected ASUCD’s newest president and vice president, authorized the use of this information.
Neither Hurst nor Deshpande responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.
Screenshots of texts allegedly sent by DCD were obtained by The California Aggie.
“Hi! I’m with DCD and was wondering if you’ve voted in the elections,” the text reads. “If not DCD has endorsed BASED candidates and you can vote here: http://elections.ucdavis.edu.”
The source said a friend of a friend received the screenshot and was “concerned and confused because she had not given anyone from DCD her number or information.”
“Over the next 30 minutes to an hour we heard more reports from students stating that they had received suspicious texts and emails from DCD that they had not consented to,” the source said, including attachments of four different screenshots of texts appearing to have been sent by DCD to UC Davis students.
The source said they reached out to an ASUCD employee who is also a member of DCD about the concerns that student contact information had been used inappropriately. The ASUCD employee contacted then reached out to DCD’s Latta who “confirmed to this individual that he had used information from the Yes on J database to contact these students,” the source said.
The source, who was able to access the Yes on J database themselves, reached out to a few of the individuals on the list and received confirmations from every person they contacted that they had received a text or email from DCD since the start of the election.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, “political campaign-related autodialed or prerecorded voice calls” which include text messages, are not allowed without the contacted party’s “prior express consent.” ASUCD elections are, of course, not federal elections, so FCC requirements do not apply. And, as aforementioned, no Bylaws were specifically broken. Nevertheless, concerns remain.
“These individuals consented just to have their information used for the purposes of reminding them to vote on Measure J and not by DCD and Based nine months later for a school election,” the source said.
This is a developing story. It will be updated as more information is made available.
Written by: Hannah Holzer — firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article stated that Aaron Latta worked as the main communication director for BASED outreach efforts. This is incorrect. DCD independently endorsed BASED candidates, but was not officially affiliated with the slate. The Aggie regrets the error.