City Declines to Weigh In On Controversial ASUC Election

By Judith Scherr
Friday July 28, 2006

Faced with some two dozen students calling for “hands off ASUC elections,” the Berkeley City Council Tuesday night nixed a move to intervene in a disputed student vote.  

“What’s at stake is our autonomy,” said Van Nguyen, an Associated Students of the University of California student senator-elect, addressing the council during its public comment period. “We have our own internal processes, our own judicial system. It’s not right to intervene.” 

But, introducing the resolution he authored to support Student Action, the UC Berkeley political party embroiled the election dispute, Councilmember Gordon Wozniak argued, “The council addresses injustices all over the world; here’s one in our backyard.”  

The motion failed 1-5-3, with Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmembers Max Anderson, Dona Spring, Kriss Worthington, and Linda Maio voting in opposition and Councilmembers Darryl Moore, Laurie Capitelli and Betty Olds abstaining. 

Wozniak argued that because Student Action “won overwhelmingly” and that the League of Women Voters had overseen the election, the council should support his resolution which stated: “The City of Berkeley recognizes the results of the 2006 ASUC election and the winning (Student Action) candidates….” 

But Lauren Karasek, who ran for ASUC vice president on the SQUELCH! party ticket, contended that the ASUC judicial apparatus is “healthy and functioning.”  

The ASUC’s Judicial Council ruled that Student Action violated election regulations in April by chalking partisan slogans too close to the polling stations, then lying about the violation. The Judicial Council concluded that Student Action candidates should be disqualified and Student Action appealed the ruling. 

The Judicial Council is yet to rule on the appeal. Student Action tried to have its case heard in Alameda Council Superior Court, but a judge ruled that the student organization must first exhaust its internal options. 

While Wozniak argued the violation was a “minor infraction,” Councilmember Worthington said Wozniak’s resolution is an invitation to the council “to take on the role of the U.S. Supreme Court,” referring to the court’s role in the 2000 elections. 

“It’s not our role to be the judge. Please respect the student process,” he said. 

“Mr. Wozniak is asking the council to take sides in a legal process,” said UC Berkeley student Jason Overman, who is challenging Wozniak for the District 8 City Council seat.  

Councilmember Betty Olds, who abstained on the measure, argued that participation in student government is part of student education. 

“College kids need to learn,” she said, indicating that they should to be allowed to make their own mistakes. “We should stay out of it.”