OUSC elections commissioner reviews grievances

In the wake of last week’s election results, losing candidates Amera Fattah and Maria Arellano lost 40 percent of their total vote due to grievances filed against them by the Brandon Hanna and Jibran Ahmed campaign.

Elections Commissioner Emily Collins said two of the more contentious issues surrounding this year’s campaign season involved where and when candidates could campaign and whether T-shirts were permitted.

Collins said she found it easiest to interpret the bylaws literally to avoid gray areas.

“What stinks about the job of elections commission chair is the person in my position is literally asked the same question about the same bylaw over and over again,” she said.  “My mentality was, it helps to think about them literally because it helps with those gray areas. Most of the time, that helps me. In this case it hurt me.”

The Oakland Post challenged the interpretation of a bylaw which would have prevented candidates from buying advertisements on grounds that the prohibition violated the First Amendment. Because The Post is in the basement of the Oakland Center, buying an advertisement would have potentially caused the candidates to receive a grievance.

Collins feels bylaw revisions needs to be made, citing specifically that prohibiting the wearing of T-shirts at events is a violation of first amendment rights.

Student Congress adviser Allison Webster said candidates are responsible to know the regulations and the consequences that come with violating them.

“When they run, they are told up front that any of their campaign materials they are responsible for, so they have to be careful of who they give that stuff to,” Webster said. “Those people could turn around and do things that are inappropriate with them and could end up as a filed grievance.”

What constitutes a bylaw violation is decided by the elections commission, but often decisions are left up to Collins.

“Their opinions are definitely involved in my decision-making process,” Collins said. “There are some that I believe you need interpretation on. There are some that are very simple, black and white. Of course you can’t put flyers on someone else’s car. That’s pretty standard. The ones like downstairs, representing OUSC, those are items that are a little more tricky. They kind of left it up to me. ‘We stand behind you and your decisions.’”

Collins said she feels bylaws need to be changed for elections next year, starting with the recommendation that the changes need to be made in the summer versus in the winter.

“I think part of the problem with us doing it in January was everyone was already in elections mode, so it was kind of hard to have a levelheaded conversation.”

Collins also recommends reworking the restrictions in the OC basement, allowing for campaigning everywhere except for the OUSC office.

“Obviously, the office needs to be neutral because we have work to do,” she said. “But why not just let them be downstairs? When it comes to elections you want elections everywhere because you want people to know about it. You want people to vote.”