Undergraduate Student Government presidential candidate Andrew Stern lost six votes after a member of his campaign slandered his opponent Irma Valverde in a campaign violation hearing with USG’s judiciary on Sunday night.
USG judiciary said the charges against Stern were not serious enough to warrant disqualification, but did create an unfair election environment.
Valverde’s campaign brought four violations against Stern, including bribery, voter intimidation, illegal canvassing in residential halls and slander. Stern’s campaign was found guilty on one charge of slander, and lost a total of 29 votes after the judiciary ruled the circumstances of the election were unfair for Valverde.
Valverde filed the slander charge after a member of Stern’s campaign told a philosophy lecture Valverde does not support sustainability. Valverde affirmed her support for sustainability during the hearing, citing testimony from USG Sen. Franklyn Barrueco (NextGen) that the two have discussed eco-friendly initiatives to introduce on campus.
In her opening statement, Valverde said she did not want to file charges, but felt Stern’s campaign crossed a line because the violations could sway student votes.
“[Stern’s alleged violations] damaged my reputation and did not guarantee a fair election,” Valverde said.
Stern filed his charges against Valverde after she filed hers near the end of the day on March 2, the last day of voting.
Stern dropped his charges against Valverde in his closing remarks of the case against him. Stern said he brought the charges against Valverde to make a point about candidates filing campaign violations against one another and intended to drop them from the beginning.
While Stern admitted the seven charges he brought were filed with the intent to drop them, Stern’s pick for Vice President, Ven Gopal, said Stern’s campaign had “very compelling evidence” supporting their charges including usage of illegal paraphernalia in a campaign photo and campaigning near a space where students were voting in the Student Union.
Stern and Gopal said the charges against Stern were “without merit.”
“[Our charges against Valverde] are inherently petty, just as hers were against us,” Stern said.
Valverde was visibly upset at the end of the hearing.
“I’m disturbed at the fact that they used a case against me as a joke,” Valverde said.
Valverde added she feels Stern’s campaign wasted her time, as well as the USG’s judiciary’s time. “[The judiciary] has to prepare for these cases. We all have lives, we all have jobs, we’re all students,” Valverde said.
Stern and Gopal noted violation charges have been brought up during USG presidential campaigns in every year since at least 2012, except in 2015 when the candidate for USG president ran unopposed.
“Each of these charges against our campaign are baseless, and they are a reflection of the same nonsense that has plagued our elections process every year since before any of us attended UConn,” Stern said in his closing statement.
Stern said filing charges against competitors can be used by candidates who feel they need to disqualify their opponent in order to win.
“We got notice of having a case at the eleventh hour and felt that [Valverde] did not feel completely confident [she] won the election” Stern said.
Valverde dismissed Stern’s claim she filed the charges simply because she feared losing the election.“I’m not going to file something just because my feelings were hurt,” Valverde said.
Schae Beaudoin is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.