On Monday, April 22 the student body voted in a referendum to decide whether the Unity Ticket would be given a chance to run for the Association of Amherst Students (AAS) executive board (E-board) positions. The students who comprised the Unity Ticket included: Gabriel Echarte ’22 running for president, Isiaha Price ’21 for vice-president, Dorjohn Boakye ’21 for Judiciary Council (JC) chair and Angelina Han ’22 for secretary. The results were announced on Tuesday, April 23, with 71 percent of students voting against overturning the JC’s decision to bar the Unity Ticket from elections.
Two weeks ago, the JC voted to expel the Unity Ticket from E-board elections after a student filed a campaign finance complaint against the group. The Unity Ticket, according to the JC, violated the Elections Committee section H. subsection ii. clause of the AAS Constitution, which states that “no more than $30 total from any source or combination of sources can be spent on the promotion of any candidate and, any campaign item promoting a candidate counts toward this sum.” As a result, the first election results were voided, and a second election cycle was announced.
Gabriel Echarte ’22, the presidential nominee of the disqualified Unity Ticket, said that the clause in question “is objectively ambiguous. It felt like a biased letter. Multiple people misinterpreted the passage.”
In an email to the student body explaining its decision, the JC wrote that “active senators, such as the ticket’s presidential and vice-presidential candidates, should have been well aware of the proper channel for their inquiry. This was a failure to complete due diligence on their part.”
Echarte said that the entire process of running in the campaign, being disqualified and then filing a referendum was extremely taxing. “It was a pretty painful process. There are some things that I want to change about the process. Like member parties are only informed about complaints against them when they get to trial in a public setting. They don’t know what they’re charged with until the day of the trial,” he said.
He also added that he believed the JC mishandled the situation. “I felt like the JC email took things a step too far. It felt like a personal attack,” Echarte said.
Avery Farmer ’20, the newly-appointed AAS president, empathizes with the constituents of the Unity Ticket and plans to make the constitution clearer in the future so a similar election debacle will not occur again.
“I am sorry that the Unity Ticket felt that the decision against them was too harsh, and I would remind students that the original issue came from an honest misunderstanding rather than from any willful subversion of the rules,” Farmer said.
“I plan to encourage [AAS] Senate to take this opportunity to make the rules clearer surrounding elections, JC proceedings and referenda, with a focus on preventing prolonged disputes like we had in this election,” he added.
Isiaha Price ’21, the Unity Ticket’s vice-presidential nominee also expressed his disappointment with the results of the race. We “the ticket [are] sad that the referendum did not go through, but we knew this was an uphill battle. We’re thankful for the student body’s patience,” he said.
Nevertheless, several members of the Unity Ticket will have their chance to work in the AAS. Both Echarte and Han are running for senate seats in the AAS. Senate elections will take place on Thursday, April 24.