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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


ASUA elections, allegations of candidate intimidation and harassment

Caitlin Claypool

The Associated Students of the University of Arizona logo painted across the wall at the ASUA office in the Student Union Memorial Center.

Last week’s Associated Students of the University of Arizona elections were marred by controversy that sparked concerns about the validity of the elections process and the safety of current student leaders.

Benjamin Jackson, the ASUA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences senator-elect, raised concerns about the elections process and how he and Arturo Whipple, runner-up in the race for executive vice president, had been intimidated and harassed by ASUA Elections Commission officials.

“While I am overjoyed to have been elected to the ASUA Senate receiving more votes than any other individual senator, I feel I must call out the ASUA election process, especially in their handling of the Arturo Whipple campaign. The ASUA Elections Commission violated multiple sections of its own bylaws in order to stop a grassroots movement started by Mr. Whipple,” according to a statement posted on Jackson’s campaign page. “Both Mr. Whipple and I have been victims of intimidation, vindictiveness and harassment due solely to our campaigns. I am officially calling for a clear audit of this election with a transparent chain of custody. I’m looking forward to ending this corruption and fighting for you.”

Outgoing ASUA Student Body President Alyssa Sanchez defended the election process, calling it very secure and competent. Sanchez said that demands like Jackson’s invalidate the integrity of all of ASUA’s elections and “it just brings a lot of speculation and conspiracies that don’t exist.”

This election cycle, and the UA student governing body as a whole, has also garnered greater attention as a result of a video posted to Twitter that shows a conversation between UA College Republicans President Ricky Guthridge and Sanchez. The video, posted by College Fix reporter Logan Dubil, was retweeted by Abe Hamadeh, a Trump-endorsed Republican candidate for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District. The video now has over 6,000 views, 50 likes and 25 retweets.

Outgoing ASUA Executive Vice President Eddie Barron expressed concern about these videos being shared and the safety of ASUA officers, who he said were being threatened.

“It’s important to ensure the safety of people who are running in elections and the current student leaders because I think that what’s happening is a mirroring model of what we’re seeing nationally,” Barron said, calling the threats against ASUA officers alarming and extremely concerning.

Barron sent an email to the elections commission informing them of Jackson’s statement and the social media post, saying that ASUA needs to handle this moment with care and ensure that the governing body sends a message that this behavior will not be accepted.

Paola Mendivil, the ASUA elections commissioner, said that there are many safeguards in place to ensure the integrity of the ASUA elections and the comfort of the candidates throughout the process.

“All candidate activity, complaints, bylaw violations, etc., are carefully watched and reviewed by the elections commissioner and ASUA Professional Staff to ensure that everything is being done according to the ASUA constitution and by-laws,” she said “All candidates have a direct line to the elections commissioner during election season, which means that candidates can communicate questions/comments/concerns at a moment’s notice and vice versa. Everyone is treated fairly and all decisions are made with a commitment to impartiality.”

ASUA is no stranger to election controversy. Last year, a UA student sent an email to members of the student body calling for the replacement of ASUA with a new government, citing concerns including a lack of student representation, a lack of student participation in elections and unclear communication between the governing body and the campus community.

However, this year many of the issues surrounding the election are distinctly partisan and the safety of student leaders has been threatened, which are new and concerning phenomena for the nonpartisan student government.

Adriana Grijalva was elected as the 2024-25 ASUA student body president. Filling out the other executive officer positions are Executive Vice President Jasmine Tafolla and Alicia Hall as administrative vice president.

These newly elected leaders will not only have to deal with the fallout of these recent controversies, but also with the ramifications of a university-wide financial crisis that has already impacted the efforts of the current ASUA leadership team.

“I think it’s fair enough to say that ASUA as an organization is going to be hit harder, and a lot of other colleges may be hit harder as well,” Barron said. “The incoming student leaders are going to have to grapple with and they’re going to have to answer more questions and figure out ways to combat and to problem solve and to organize around the fact that students are going to feel this in ways that we haven’t felt before.”

An example of an issue these leaders will have to face is club funding.

Many clubs felt blindsided this semester by ASUA closing club funding one week into the semester. In recent years, club funding stayed open through late March/early April. During a debate hosted by ASUA on March 13, Tafolla stressed the importance of being open and clear with student organizations about funding and how it is distributed.

Grijalva also campaigned on a promise to increase transparency of communication between clubs, students and ASUA.

In a bright spot for the ASUA elections, voter turnout among the student body saw a marked increase this year, most notably for the executive officer positions;  2,092 ballots were cast this year compared to 1,582 in 2023.

“This past election had the highest turnout in an ASUA election in a very long time,” Mendivil said.

“I am wishing the next student leaders, you know, great success in their roles. And I think that there needs to be more mobilization within ASUA for it to move forward in a positive direction,” Barron said “I think that these three leaders are the people that do it.”

Arizona Sonoran News is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism. 

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