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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Davis College Democrats used student contact info inappropriately to campaign for BASED, source says

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 — campus@theaggie.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.


  1. The narrative that DCD has broken any election laws or used student information inappropriately is false. On 2/13/19, Davis College Democrats endorsed all individuals on the BASED slate. To support our endorsements we campaigned on our social media accounts, passed out over 2,000 flyers and made 406 texts to student voters. Our efforts followed all relevant campus, local, state, and federal election laws. We have found four factual inaccuracies in the California Aggie Breaking News Article published February 22 and will correct them below:

    1) Aaron Latta is not a member of the BASED communications team. Aaron Latta is the Executive Director of the Davis College Democrats and organized DCD support for BASED candidates after they were endorsed.

    2) The database in question belonged to the Student Voter Coalition, not just to Yes on J or to DCD alone. During the June 2018 primary election the following organizations signed onto the Coalition to share voter information: ASUCD, DCD, Yes on J and others. From March 30th 2018 to June 5th 2018 these groups signed onto a non-legally binding Memorandum of Understanding to register student voters. This MOU expired on June 5th, 2018 allowing all organizations to use the database for any legal purpose.

    3) By putting their student information on the pledge card, student voters were consenting to giving their information to all members of the Student Voter Coalition. The pledge card does not say that this information is exclusively for use in support of Yes on J or that it would not be used in elections after June 5th 2018, contrary to the statements made in this article regarding the details of the pledge card.

    4) The Davis College Democrats’ support of BASED was compliant with all campus, state, and federal laws. No auto-dialed text messages were used during these efforts. All campaigning text messages were sent individually by DCD volunteers, for which the FCC does not require “prior expressed consent.” Mass email campaigning, especially for non-commercial purposes and using emails from public record, is not prohibited in any way. Additionally, both student emails and phone numbers are publicly available data, much of which is supplied by the University itself to the public. No “consent” is needed to contact individuals using this information for non-commercial purposes.

    The Davis College Democrats’ actions in support of BASED are no different from those of any other political campaign operating in this country. The California Aggie’s willingness to publish this “source’s” information without taking any time to verify their story or consider their bias speaks volumes about Aggie Editor Hannah Holzer’s journalistic integrity. It is sad and unfortunate that our campus newspaper would stoop to this level. The source in question claims they had access to the SVC database and apparently has connections to ASUCD officials/DCD members. There are only two individuals who fit that description of the source, both of whom are members of Unite! and have a vested interest in delegitimizing BASED’s victory. False and ugly accusations like those furnished by this article, especially those made to perpetuate invalid political narratives, have no place on our campus. The simple fact is that DCD’s actions over this election cycle are compliant with all campus, state, and federal laws and policies.


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