After a student election fiasco that drew media attention and scrutiny from the FBI, California State University San Marcos is starting its vote-casting process over again.
After the high profile arrest of Associated Students Inc. (ASI) presidential candidate Matt Weaver for allegedly tampering with election files, CSUSM officials are currently holding a special election slated to fill the remaining ASI positions and restore voter confidence. ASI Director Rodger D’Andreas said that the situation actually helped bring new blood into the political process.
“We had more students apply for seats in this special election than we had in the first round,” D’Andreas said. “This whole situation generated new interest.”
Weaver’s sudden arrest prompted the ASI to launch a special election. Because ASI bylaws prevent candidates from running uncontested, the ASI needed someone to step up to challenge presidential candidate Scott Silviera, whom Weaver was running against. According to Margaret Lutz, Public Information Officer at CSUSM, there are 17 positions currently up for election and Siviera will be running again.
“The student applications were put out in early April. We now have a slate of new candidates who are now in the campaigning period,” Lutz said.
According to Lutz, the controversy started when the IT department noticed irregular activity occurring on the election website. The activity was traced to a campus computer where police found Weaver.
“He was found in possession of a device called a ‘keylogger’ that allows a person to record keystrokes of students entering their usernames and passwords,” Lutz said. “He was arrested that night. The FBI is now investigating and we are working in compliance with them.”
Neither Lutz nor D’Andreas could comment on possible punishment.
As a former editor of the controversial campus publication The Koala, Weaver’s entrance into the race came as a surprise to some students. But according to D’Andreas, no one saw anything like this coming.
“Most of the students I spoke to seemed shocked and perplexed that a student would allegedly take these actions to win an election,” D’Andreas said.
While the legal definition of election fraud is a bit unclear, Lutz said that because California State Universities are public institutions, student politicians are considered public officials by law, and are subject to the same legal ramifications that state of federal politicians would be.
“The student body has an important role of shared governance. The ASI Board of Directors are elected by to be their voice,” Lutz said. “It’s a very serious role that has a level of influence on the way the university is run.”
Evelyn Lucero, president of the Associated Student Government (ASG) at Palomar, said that the penalty students should face for breaking the rules of an election is disqualification, not jail time.
“Under normal circumstances, I don’t think committing election fraud should be punishable by law,” Lucero said.
In spite of setbacks, the ASI’s normal election cycle will resume next year, according to D’Andreas.