ASI presidential runoffs have been postponed due to accusations by candidates on nearly all sides.
The controversy is focused on the campaigning ethics of presidential candidates Marvin Flores and Oscar Acevedo, who finished first and second in the ASI elections for next year.
Acevedo was disqualified before the election results were announced on March 23, a decision that he is appealing to the ASI Judiciary panel. Flores received 1,636 votes to Acevedo’s 1,066 votes. Robert Espinosa, who came in third with 743 votes was announced to be in the runoff against Flores.
Flores, a current ASI senator-at-large, filed a complaint on March 22 against Acevedo for his campaigning techniques. During his campaign time, Acevedo handed out Chick-Fil-A gift cards at tabeling events. Acevedo said the gift cards were under $5 and he handed out less than a hundred of them.
According to the minutes from the Board of Elections meeting on March 24, Acevedo had fliers taped to the wall of LA-5 at one of his tabeling events, which is a violation of the ASI Student handbook regarding campaigning.
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ASI Government Elections Officer Vrinda Bhuta also filed a campaign violation complaint on March 22 for the posters. She also recorded that Acevedo was handing out bags of chips, $10 Forbidden City restaurant gift cards, and providing phones on which students could vote.
Flores’ running mate, Logan Vournas, who is currently in the runoff for vice president, said at the meeting that she saw Acevedo tabeling past the allowed time for candidates.
The meeting minutes also say Bhuta received an email from a student who requested her vote for Acevedo not be counted. The email said the voter felt forced to vote for Acevedo and his running mate.
Bhuta said she had a witness who saw Acevedo and his campaign workers instructing people on how to vote on their phones and where they could find his name on the ballot.
Acevedo said that when he originally tried to file an appeal for his disqualification, the Elections Board “highly discouraged [him] from seeking an appeal and gave [him] false information to stop [him] from filing an appeal.”
According to the ASI Student Government handbook, Acevedo did not break any rules by giving out the gift cards.
The handbook states that giving away “promotional items or items permissible for bake sale” is a permitted campaign activity.
Acevedo said that the handbook encourages students to be creative with their campaigning, and that the other candidates passed out promotional items as well. For example, Flores passed out candy and Dylan Tom and Novy Bowman passed out shirts.
The ASI Election Board did not respond to requests for comment.
Acevedo said that Flores’ complaint is an effort to “[try] to eliminate the competition.”
“It just goes to show you how much we need better people in ASI,” he said. “We need to hold them more accountable.”
All those running for ASI positions are required to attend at least one candidates meeting held by the Board of Elections. Acevedo said he attended two meetings and was told not to worry about any violations.
“[They] said don’t worry about violations; the maximum punishment is a few days of no campaigning,” Acevedo said.
Acevedo said that he was not given the opportunity to defend himself at the Board of Elections hearing. However, the minutes from the meeting show that he was given multiple chances to answer questions from the board and defend himself. When asked about this, Acevedo said, “The minutes are incorrect. They lied and left out information.”
Flores noted that the meetings are recorded, and that a third party is responsible for taking the minutes.
Two days after Flores and Bhuta filed their violation complaints, Acevedo filed a complaint against Flores for passing out fliers promoting a happy hour on campus.
Although CSULB is allowed to serve alcohol at designated spots such as The Nugget, it is not allowed to promote alcohol.
Similarly, the ASI Student Government Handbook forbids ASI candidates from promoting alcohol in any campaign materials.
At the March 25 Board of Elections meeting, the happy hour complaint was brought before Flores and Vournas. According to the minutes, Vournas said that happy hour was “promoting cheaper, healthier food options on campus,” not alcohol. Furthermore, she said that their posters and fliers had been approved by Bhuta.
Acevedo also alleged that Flores was using ASI social media to promote his campaign, through the “50 Clubs in 50 Days” campaign.
While the ASI committee determined Flores violated campaign rules, Acevedo said he was given the “minimum punishment” because all those on the committee are ASI members and Flores’ co-workers.
The ASI Board of Elections found Flores guilty of a “minor violation” for using the term “happy hour” and made him remove the term from his campaign materials, according to James Ahumada, ASI interim communication and special projects manager.
Acevedo said that when Flores and Bhuta filed their complaints, the election board’s response to notify Acevedo came one day later, and a hearing was scheduled for the following day. But when Acevedo filed his appeal, the matter went to the dean of students — the standard procedure for when the judiciary committee fails to hear an appeal within four days.
According to Acevedo, a hearing with the dean took place on March 29, at which time Acevedo was told he would receive a decision the following day. Though the dean has only one day to make a decision, after a few days, Acevedo said the complaint was passed back to the ASI judiciary committee.
The ASI judiciary appeals hearing will be held on Wednesday at noon in the Senate Chambers of the University Student Union to determine Acevedo’s appeal.
The presidential runoff will commence after the judiciary has made its decision.