Associated Students (ASUCSD) Elections Manager Janani Natarajan declined to change presidential candidate Lesly Figueroa’s affiliation from an independent candidate to Students Determined on Monday, leaving Students Determined without slated candidates for President or Vice President of External Affairs.
Prior to the ASUCSD Elections Committee’s official ruling, presidential candidate Lesly Figueroa and Vice President of External Affairs candidate Refilwe Gqajela were officially registered as independent candidates.The candidates claimed this was a technical error, as the slate was organized by Figueroa. Since campaigning began on Mar. 9, Students Determined claimed Figueroa and Gqajela as their executive candidates, despite their official independent statuses.
However, Natarajan disputes that either candidate can still be affiliated with Students Determined, only endorsed by them. The slate can endorse candidates, but Natarajan encouraged the slate to make this distinction clear.
“At the moment, Lesly and Refilwe are running as independent candidates. They have chosen to attach their names to the Students Determined slate,” Natarajan said. “Since the issue was brought up after the filing deadline on Thursday of the ninth week of Winter Quarter, I am unable to change their affiliation.”
In an email yesterday to all candidates running for ASUCSD executive positions, Natarajan informed Figueroa, who organized the Students Determined slate (SD), that no record of her selecting slate affiliation exists. Thus, the Elections Committee decided she would remain officially recognized as an independent candidate by the Elections Committee.
The email specified that because Figueroa is an independent candidate, she may only use the $200 allowance that is granted to all executive candidates who choose to endorse a slate. Natarajan also encouraged Figueroa to officially release a disclaimer to notify the constituents that she is unaffiliated with Students Determined, and merely endorsing the slate to avoid future grievances.
Although the slate actively attempted to resolve the issue, Students Determined has committed to continue campaigning Figueroa and Gqajela as their candidates.
This decision by the Elections Committee came after Gus Guerrero, another independent candidate, filed a grievance against Figueroa earlier this week.
“Lesly has filed as [an] Independent, yet Students Determined has her on the campaign material, and I was unclear on if this was breaking any rules/providing an unfair advantage,” Guerrero said. “Like the email said, the elections committee said there was no wrongdoing and clarified that if Lesly was to continue to be on SD marketing and such she’d have to follow some terms.”
However, Natarajan informed The Triton that her decision was not a direct result of Guerrero’s grievance. The ASUCSD Elections Committee “found that there was insufficient evidence to support the alleged violation” of his claim that Figueroa’s intended to “mislead or deceive voters as to the mechanics of the election” by claiming that she was on the Students Determined slate, while running as an independent.
Students Determined released two separate statements, one directly to The Triton yesterday night and one to Facebook that seems to dispute this claim. The statement released to The Triton says that “Students Determined will move forward with Lesly Figueroa as our presidential candidate” and that “neither Lesly nor Refilwe have lost association from the slate.” SD told us that they will not be making any changes to campaign materials, and in their public Facebook statement, they called the Election Manager’s choice to keep Figueroa and Gqajela listed as independent candidates “a flawed and misinformed decision.”
This is the third year that Students Determined has organized as a slate, but the first year they will run without either a Presidential candidate or External Vice Presidential candidate officially on the slate. As of today, Figueroa has filed a grievance against the A.S. Elections Committee’s decision, claiming that the decision was against the spirit and purpose of the election code and that being registered as an independent candidate was a technical error.
“I just want to clarify on my end, there has been no technical error found. There is no indication that Lesly or Refilwe selected a specific slate,” Natarajan said. “I know there has been an allegation that I’ve failed to make a fair and democratic decision, but all and all I stand by my decision and have stuck to the rules as closely as I possibly could.”
The result of this grievance is to be decided by the A.S. Elections Committee in the coming days.
This article was compiled with information and reporting from Shine Cho, News Editor, and Gabriel Schneider, Editor-in-Chief. Sylvia O is a staff writer at The Triton.