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Complaints filed for violations of ASUW election policies result in the longest complaint hearing in years

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HUB building

The ASUW elections violations hearing took place in HUB 332 on Wednesday night.

Every year, the ASUW elections bring forth a pool of potential candidates and “promotes voting and civic engagement on campus.” But with this election process often comes a slew of complaints against both campaigners and the ASUW Elections Administration Committee (EAC).

This year, in particular, five complaints were filed, including alleged violations from undisclosed milk tea costs to stolen fliers. The complaint hearing unexpectedly went on for over four hours, and included non-present respondents, numerous objections, and the problematic presence of an attorney parent.

The first complaint of the night, brought forward by Vincy Fok and Cooper Robertson, was against ZeZe Sun and his campaign team. The complaint was filed for the spread of inaccurate information as to the contents of the Elections Policies and Procedures (EPP) and the threatening and harassment of volunteers.

Robertson, representing both himself as well as Fok, delivered their statement from the complainants table. At the respondents table, Nikola Kalderash brought his phone with Sun on the line, as he was not able to attend the meeting in person.

“I am completely not aware of any kind of harassment,” Sun said through the phone. “If you feel like you were threatened, please provide valid proof.”

Robertson brought two statements from his witness, one in the form an email and the other in the form of an audio recording, both of which supported the complaint.

“That is not what I intended,” Kalderash said as Sun’s witness. “I was completely mortified and shocked by seeing this statement.”

In his closing statement, Robertson said that the felt harassment is what matters most.

“It is important that we are protecting the safety of our students,” he said.

Alex / Nicola / Spencer

The ASUW presidential candidates made an appearance at the hearing. Nicola Kalderash touted his experience as student body president of Seattle Central College as a reason to elect him as ASUW President during the elections administration committee forum.

The second complaint, brought forth by the EAC, concerned an EPP policy regarding ASUW employees endorsing candidates. This complaint was filed due to a comment posted on The Daily’s ASUW elections endorsements by Lindsey Muszkiewicz, an intern for the Student Disabilities Commission (SDC), which included explicit references to the SDC and additional privileged information that was not publicly known.

Eric Liao and Divya Seth, chair and vice chair of the EAC respectively, clarified that this complaint was brought forth for policy review, not as a complaint against the SDC. The policy in question was in section V subsection 6 of the 2019 EPP, which states that no ASUW employee or intern can make any elections endorsements in an official capacity; rather, they have to explicitly state they are doing so on an individual basis.

“We felt like lack of clarity is what led us to the conclusion that [the statement] was coming from the SDC and not from an individual,” Seth said in her closing statement.

Ashley D’Ambrosio, director of the SDC, said in her response that at the heart of this complaint is the question of free speech.

“It is the question of are we always employees or are we always people first?” D’Ambrosio said.

Spencer Lively brought forward the third complaint against Conrad Johnson over accusations of stolen campaign flyers.

Before they began, Dan Tran, chair of the hearing, asked if there were any procedural questions.

“Yes,” Robert Johnson, the respondent’s council, replied. “It’s a series of questions for the entire board members.”

Robert Johnson, Conrad’s father, is an attorney and chose to represent his son for the proceedings, an unusual situation for ASUW elections violations.

“Do all members agree that all parties to a complaint are entitled to due process in the resolution of the complaint?” Johnson asked.

Tran promptly gaveled Johnson after this statement, asserting that it did not count as a procedural question.

Johnson continued to press the committee with questions unrelated to the procedure and was met with more gaveling from Tran. Johnson continued, reprimanding the board for what he felt was a lack of cooperation.

“This is a sham and a charade,” Johnson declared. Taken aback by the unexpected and abrasive interaction with Johnson, Tran announced a five-minute recess.

When the meeting continued, the chair was transferred to Riley Grace Borden for the remainder of the third complaint.

The complainants, Lively and Camille Hattwig, provided their opening statement as well as witnesses, giving context to the complaint of stolen flyers.

When it was time for the respondent to give their opening statement, Borden clarified that they would like to hear from the student himself, Conrad Johnson, and not his father, as it was a student body election.

“I’m making the opening statement,” Robert Johnson said firmly, despite the requests from the chair. When asked if he had anything to say, Conrad Johnson deferred all testimony to his father.

“A lot of smoke, but no fire,” Robert Johnson said, summarizing his opening statement. “The charge has no evidence.”

Both the complainants and respondents made their closing statements. The complainants summarized and supported their argument that Conrad Johnson intended to harm their campaign by stealing the flyers. The respondent, whose closing statement received several objections, claimed that “the case is legally insufficient.”

Kelty / Spencer

Both Spencer Lively and Kelty Pierce filed complaints that were reviewed at the hearing. Lively filed a complaint against Conrad Johnson for allegedly stealing his ticket's campaign flyers. Pierce filed her complaint against Nicola Kalderash and Zeze sun for allegedly bribing voters with milk tea. 

The fourth complaint, brought forward by Kelty Pierce, was against Kalderash and Sun for bribing voters with milk teas. In addition, the cost of these milk teas would have exceeded their authorized campaign expenditures.

Kalderash and Sun responded to the complaint by saying that the teas were not a bribe as voters had the option to vote for any candidate. They also stated that their expenditures were justified as all ingredients were donated by Harley Delivery, a company owned by Sun, for volunteers of the campaign to make the milk tea. The Daily was unable to verify that this company is officially registered with the Washington Department of Revenue.

The fifth and final complaint, brought forward by Robertson, Kalderash, and Jimmi Hopkins, was concerned with a question on the ASUW voting ballot. This question, which has been on the ballot for the past 20 years, asks if the voter wants to be a member of the ASUW and their vote will not be counted if “no” is selected.

The complaint, filed against the EAC, was filed because the complainants considered it unnecessary and harmful to the election process. They brought evidence that voters are able to continue filling out their ballot even after the option “no” is selected, and the question itself can be misunderstood.

Liao and Seth responded to the complainants’ suggestions which included a potential recount as well as finding the reason to why voters selected “no,” arguing that they may invade student privacy and be disrespectful to the integrity of the ASUW.

“We have a great amount of trust with our students,” Seth said in her closing statement.

After over four hours, the hearing finally came to close. With tired faces, the members of the judicial committee walked out of the room to discuss their final recommendations. These will be delivered to the board of directors this week and they will have the final authority to approve, alter, or reject the recommendation.

Reach contributing writer Andrew Ronstadt at Twitter: @andrewronstadt

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