Last Thursday evening the 2010 ASI Elections came to a close as Sarah Storelli was unofficially announced as next year’s ASI President. But the controversial saga continues as ASI Elections staff investigate allegations claiming Storelli and other candidates violated campaign policies.
Near the “Vote Storelli” campaign booth, laughing, smiling and wearing red, supporters watched as the concrete blocks slowly filled with passersby and curious onlookers. Some danced and some bobbed their heads as local band Chiller Whales jammed onstage. Then the music stopped.
ASI Elections Chair Kelsey Rice stood in front of the crowd and prefaced the election results, saying she wanted to re-emphasize the results are not considered official until ratified in a May 19 meeting.
The results were announced, and while Cal Poly’s new ASI president and Board of Directors cheered — some people didn’t, including political science junior Lindsey Meredith.
Though Meredith didn’t earn a seat on the College of Liberal Arts Board of Directors, she performed her duty as an “official voice of the students.”
Prior to her defeat, Meredith sent an e-mail to the Mustang Daily voicing concern about “dirty campaigning.” According to her e-mail, Meredith said candidates campaigned in ASI polos, solicited door-to-door in the dorms, offered bribes and removed opponents’ campaign materials such as pickets and fliers. In accordance with ASI Election policy, all such acts are prohibited.
In a written statement from Rice, she confirmed an official complaint had been received, saying the elections committee will review the alleged violations. Not under review, however, is the improper use of campaign materials and fliers.
According the Rice, the ASI Elections committee will review the allegations today. She did not say when definitive answers would be found, but said the investigation will be elucidated before the ratification of the newly-elected board members.
“I want to make sure we operate a fair and efficient election,” she said. “I also want to make sure it is known that we take these elected roles and our rules that govern them very seriously. With this in mind, I am not rushing the investigation process, nor is my committee.”
Rice, in her statement, said all candidates were made aware of election policies in a meeting prior to open campaigning, which began April 25 and marked when candidates could begin campaigning. According to Article VII of the elections policy (part of ASI bylaws), candidates running for the board found guilty of irregularities lose a $50 campaign deposit (given back once all campaign materials and a closing statement are turned in) and face fines up to $100 for each violation. All decisions on the matter are at the discretion of the Elections Committee. And, if found guilty, the committee may recommend a candidate be disqualified.
Although controversy swirls, Rice remains steadfast in the decision to investigate.
“Elections are about opening your eyes to what’s really going on, getting a little more interested in what happens in student government — being that good or bad,” she said. “I think a lot of good things have come from this and we’re recognizing that we want to be more transparent with students, and I think this is really helpful information for the board and the president.”
Despite the call to protest the elections, students exercised their rights.
According to Rice, 3,373 (18.7 percent) students voted and there were “a lot of unofficial write-ins.” Write-ins are students who didn’t fill out an official campaign packet or pay the $100 fee. Winning the unofficial presidency was mechanical engineering student Jeff McGovern, who received 120 votes — 2,817 votes short of creating a push at the ballot boxes.
Sarah Storelli received 2,937 votes, enough to seal her victory, and said she was “incredibly pleased” people voted, especially facing the barriers covering up the election, including Alex Kaplan’s withdrawl and threats from potential write-ins.
While the goal of a 30 percent voter turnout was not met, now that her presidency is official, Storelli said she is ready for the bureaucratic changeover.
“The next step is working with transitions, meeting with (President) Griggs to determine the current state and to be brought up to speed on any information that needs to be relayed for next year, so it’s a smooth transition,” she said.
“The first thing will be choosing our executive cabinet, which is open to all students, and they can apply through ASI student jobs. It will be the first step to establish a team of really excited students — just as I am — and find people who are specifically knowledgeable whether it’s in issues of safety, sustainability, diversity, community relations — just really starting that up right now,” she said.
Physics senior Ryan Moriarty, founder of the Coalition for the Restoration of Alex Kaplan in the Cal Poly Community, sat 30 feet from Storelli at the election announcement Thursday night, his back turned the whole time except to explain his presence.
“I am here to show my solidarity with former presidential candidate, and rightful, ASI president-in-exile, Alex Kaplan,” he said.
He sported a white tank top screened with the likeness of a smiling Kaplan pictured wearing a gold crown.
“I think that tank top itself has sort of become uniquely expressive of a distinct and deliberate political thought, and that is solidarity with Alex Kaplan. I actually think that prior to this election, the no-tank-top at the gym policy was pretty innocuous, you know, a pretty benign policy. Now, in the wake of everything that happened, I think that wearing a tank top to the gym, that’s exercising your right to free speech. And I think in the light of that, now Cal Poly is sort of censoring us by not letting us wear our tank tops to the gym.”
Moriarty formed the coalition in response to the article and comments on the Mustang Daily website, Facebook and in the Cal Poly community, he said. Four coalition members showed, two were missing.
One coalition supporter, Suzy Lee, said: “If this was UC Berkeley, like, Ryan would be another voice in the crowd, there would be other fish to fry, like some hippie living in a tree or something. But this is Cal Poly and no on gives a shit about politics and so Ryan is like, you know, the number one person to go after because — oh my gosh! — he actually has an opinion.”
Lee continued her reflection on this year’s elections.
“If Storelli wants to actually become involved in politics, don’t you think she has to become comfortable with criticism and laugh it off instead of being so threatened that she actually attacks her opposers. I think her reaction to this is totally ridiculous,” Lee said.
Asked about the comments made on Facebook, in which Kaplan aimed derogatory statements toward Storelli, Moriarty admitted Kaplan’s wrongdoings.
“There is clearly a line and he definitely may have crossed it, but I feel that the response he was met with was disproportionate to what he had done. And that’s basically why I did what I did — why I’m doing what I’m doing,” he said.
Recently, Moriarty was suspended from campus for remarks made in his blog aimed toward Storelli and Mustang Daily. Described by Moriarty as an interim suspension that was administrative, not punitive, he was not allowed on campus — except to use the library — from 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 30, to 9 a.m. Monday, May 3. He said it will not go on his college transcript and all charges have been dropped since his remarks were not deemed threatening.
“What I said wasn’t actually threatening, according to investigators,” he said.
After the election ceremony buzz died to a hum, most of the crowd wandered off. The Chiller Whales packed up. But still lingering were Storelli and Moriarty, each in their own circles of trust.
“They have their own rights and it’s fine that they’re here.” Storelli said about the coalition. “I have a neutral stance, my campaign is here, and it’s nice that I have all my supporters — and (the coalition) were here representing other students.”
As the coalition headed for the physics lounge inside the Science Building, Moriarty offered his congratulations to Storelli.
“Kaplan supporters are nothing but gracious in defeat,” Moriarty said. “There’s always next year; there’s always going to be 2011.”