Historic voter turnout leads to decertified election results, election redo
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Aaron Tan / Courier
Student Affairs Advisor Carrie Afuso goes over the voter data during a meeting at PCC on May 31, 2019. The meeting was held to discuss anomolies and the discovery of voter fraud in the AS election.
The Associated Students (AS) elections held two weeks ago that had been certified have been decertified due to fraudulent voting behavior uncovered by the campus IT department and the Institutional Planning and Research Office (IPRO), which is in charge of conducting the elections. Candidates were to re-campaign this week in preparation for the reopening of the polls from Thursday June 6 at 12:01 a.m. to Friday June 7 11:59 p.m.
Fraud noticed by Afuso
Afuso’s suspicion was raised when a higher number of votes than usual were cast between the hours of 10 p.m. and 12 a.m. on the night of the second day of elections. For reference, during the 2016 election cycle 12% of the total votes were cast during this time. Whereas, this time 361 out of 1361 total votes were cast, 26.5%.
Afuso saw this happening real time.
“I can see the number of people who vote, and when we hit a thousand, I was like, ‘yay we hit a thousand!’ So I sent all the candidates an email at 10 o’clock … I finished my email at 10:30, and 80 more people had voted in 30 minutes,” Afuso said.
This was a red flag for Afuso, who then continued to watch the vote count increase all the way until the polls closed at 11:59 p.m.
“We have never gotten 361 votes in the last two hours … so I sent out an email to IPRO asking them to help me analyze the raw data,” Afuso said.
Afuso found possible explanation for the unusual voting spike after reaching out to the candidates.
“I talked to some of the candidates, who said they went to every classroom, got on social media, even went to night classes and these particular [candidates] spoke chinese, and said they spoke to chinese students in their language,” Afuso said.
She went forward with certifying the election results.
Upon seeing the results, those involved with the elections noticed that something was amiss.
“The biggest red flag was this huge discrepancy of effort not being seen and this huge margin being made,” current Chief Justice of the Supreme Council Andrew Mendoza said.
The chief justice race was especially characteristic of the odd election results.
“There were essentially factions on campus; there was the insulated circle that is AS, and everyone with that who were supporting the incumbency, and then there’s the general public,” Mendoza said.
Deyra Ojeda of the Make It Happen slate served on the supreme council this last year. During the first campaign season, she went to classrooms and stood at tables in various locations on campus handing out flyers and candy.
“Deyra was the only individual that I feel was liked by both sides,” Mendoza said. “She’s close friends with people in the incumbency, currently on the board, so that means that insulated circle should have, theoretically, voted for her because people were advocating for her. She also should have gotten the general public as well.”
David Ramirez vied for the chief justice spot against Ojeda, yet he had not campaigned at all. Ramirez won by 33 votes, 571 to Ojeda’s 538.
The Make It Happen slate submitted a Public Records Act request on Monday, May 20 to see the election data, suspecting fraud.
“In the results, we noticed a strange pattern,” said Justin Gonzalez, who ran for and lost the position of vice president for public relations. “We noticed discrepancies with how many no votes the Make It Happen slate got.”
All those in the Make It Happen slate who ran contested, lost.
Investigation and results
The IPRO followed up with Afuso’s email on May 20, confirming her initial suspicion.
“Monday morning, I get an email saying that something was up. So, I walked over [to the IPRO] and looked at the data, and what I noticed was a pattern,” said Afuso.
“We didn’t need to concentrate on amendments bc they were largely left alone by the perpetrator of the attack,” Afuso explained.
“I concentrated my research on the last two and a half to three hours because that’s where I had spotted the anomaly,” said Afuso, “and what we saw was votes being cast every thirty seconds, we saw student ID numbers that were semi-consecutive numbers.”
The key tip-off was the duration of the vote.
“If they were voting for less than 45 seconds and chose not to vote on the amendments, I flagged that as possibly being a little bit funky [of a vote],” Afuso said during the candidate meeting Friday.
Afuso found longer-than-normal “runs” in the student ID numbers. A number of votes were cast by semi-consecutive ID numbers, where the first seven digits of the ID numbers matched and the last digit differed.
Previous elections also had runs of semi-consecutive votes. They were at longest three and, much more commonly, two ID numbers. The runs occurring in this election were indicative of fraud.
“So because of this, taken with the report that came back from IT that there was a barrage of hits during that time period, I feel that this was not a fair election,” Afuso said.
Meetings held Friday
Due to this, the elections committee convened on Friday, May 24 to decide on a course of action. The meeting was open to all candidates and the public. At the meeting, Afuso explained the results of the investigation. The elections committee decided to redo the election.
Following this meeting, Cobb and Afuso held a second public meeting with the candidates to discuss the process of the election redo, its timeline, and maintaining the integrity of the process.
Impact on candidates
“Knowing this information, I would not feel comfortable serving in this office,” Alejandro Ortega said.
Ortega felt that the shadow of doubt that the election fraud cast over the legitimacy of candidates’ election to office would jeopardize their ability to serve students.
“It is very important for me as a student, as a candidate, and as a human to know that the integrity of the [election] process is preserved,” Ortega said.
Dean Cobb responded, “That’s why we are here.”
Dean Cobb is heading the ongoing administrative investigation into the election results.
When to vote
The second election started Thursday, June 6 at 12:01 a.m. and finishes on Friday, June 7 at 11:59 p.m.