Rutgers University Student Assembly accuses 2 members of committing 'election fraud'
The Rutgers University Student Assembly’s (RUSA) elections committee has accused two assembly members of engaging in election fraud, but the committee's evidence may be limited.
The two assembly members who were charged are School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Vladimir Carrasco, who also serves as the public relations chair for RUSA, and School of Arts and Sciences first-year student Jessica Resnick, who serves as the Livingston at-large representative.
Carrasco said he was initially confronted about this incident on Feb. 2 by School of Arts and Sciences senior Anish Patel, the head of the elections committee, who claimed he was engaging in “pre-campaigning."
On Feb. 6, both Resnick and Carrasco received a written charge through email accusing them of election fraud. Carrasco said that he found the change in story unsettling, considering this is a serious matter.
An excerpt of the letter says, “The Elections Committee has sole jurisdiction over matters of campaigning and candidacy, and has deemed the below actions to be a case of potential election fraud. No formal candidacy procedure or qualifications, or endorsements have been adopted, and as such, the below actions convey fraudulent information to student organizations.”
The elections committee does indeed have jurisdiction over election matters, as stated in the RUSA standing rules.
The RUSA standing rules say, “Election of representatives for the Professional Schools & Residential Colleges shall be handled by those organizations, unless otherwise requested by the Executive Board of an organization, in which case it would be handled by the RUSA Elections Committee.”
But there is no documentation regarding how to handle infractions during the elections.
Adeel Ahmed, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, serves as RUSA’s off-campus caucus chair and commuter student association representative. He said, “ ...not only is there no rule in the constitution or the standing rules, the rules they’re governing by are under the assumption that the elections are currently taking place,” which they currently are not.
Carrasco said that if he is not currently a candidate, the elections committee has no jurisdiction over his actions, and cannot judge his campaign because according to the committee, he has no recognized campaign and they are setting a double standard.
“If I’m not a candidate, they not only have no right to judge my actions nor my campaign but are also engaging in a purely political witch hunt,” Carrasco said.
Ahmed is also a potential candidate on Carrasco’s ticket.
“They can’t do anything to us until we sign the Declaration of Intent (to Run). By not letting us campaign, they’re taking away our First Amendment rights,” he said.
Ahmed also noted a document that is pending to be presented, which details a new set of rules to be followed by the elections committee. He said there are guidelines for how the committee is supposed to address problems with candidates or potential candidates.
“The election guidelines haven’t been presented, let alone approved,” Resnick said.
Ahmed added that even within that document, there is no punishment for pre-campaigning.
This scenario is reminiscent of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) presidential campaign and the Democratic National Convention’s (DNC) secret discouragement of the senator to run for president against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, he said.
The New York Times wrote that while officials at the DNC insisted they were neutral in the presidential race, they mocked Sanders and attempted to throw the campaign in secret.
In May of last year, Sanders’s Campaign Manager Jeff Weaver said he could “have a long conversation just about (former Chairperson of the DNC) Debbie Wasserman Schultz and how she’s been throwing shade at the Sanders campaign since the beginning,” according to a New York Times article.
The elections committee has not made a decision as to Carrasco and Resnick’s ruling.