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Student Government March 21, 2012 //  by  // 77 Comments

SGA president, vp, senators disqualified

The Student Government Association election commission has disqualified four students — including the president-elect and vice president-elect — on the basis of election fraud for using students’ personal information to cast votes without their consent during the general elections.

Numerous witnesses told the election commission Natural Sciences and Mathematics senators-elect Brandon Balwant and Laxmi Ramana, members of the McHugh-Aijaz party, approached students with a “petition” to change faucets in the M.D. Anderson Library that required the students’ first and last names, PeopleSoft numbers, birthdays, classifications and the college they were enrolled in — all information that was required to vote in the election, said Arsalan Razakazi, chief election commissioner.

Michael McHugh, who was elected president in the run-off elections, and his running mate Mohammed Aijaz were also disqualified because of the fraud. His party — McHugh-Aijaz — was the main beneficiary from the fraudulent voting, Razakazi said.

“Candidates who are members of a Party are held individually accountable to the provisions of this code, although parties as a whole may be held accountable to the provisions of this code,” says article III, section three, clause four of the SGA elections code as quoted in the election commission’s decision.

Two other sections from the code that are quoted in the decision say that candidates found guilty of election fraud can be disqualified and candidates that don’t meet requirements of the code can not win the election.

“We interviewed; we contacted each of the witnesses; we tried to make conferences with them in our office. We do thank them for their time,” said Dre Perez, an assistant election commissioner. “It’s not easy for them to come over here…they have to study for exams; they have to write papers, so we just thank them for time and their diligence in helping us come to this decision.”

All four students have 24 hours to appeal the disqualification to SGA’s judiciary branch. If the appeal is accepted, they will go to trial, Razakazi said.

“We’ve done a lot of research…we’ve been working countless hours — we even worked over spring break. This decision wasn’t easy… it wasn’t something we took lightly,” said Said Jalajal, an assistant election commissioner. “Even though it’s tough, we’re sticking by this decision because we believe its fully right to those people who were done wrong.”

McHugh refused to comment.

news@thedailycougar.com

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  • Concerned Student

    It looks like they're convicting on statments from random students? Since when is that enough evidence to convict on charges this serious? Sounds like corruption to me.

  • Diego L

    Dang, has this ever happened before?

    • Jess

      If you're being sarcastic, I'm laughing with you!

      If you're serious, then yes. A similar thing happened last year unfortunately…. :(

      • concernedstudent

        Last year the issue was "what is a polling location" and new technologies. This time is stealing people's ppl soft and identity to plug in votes.

  • Guillermo Lopez

    I worked countless hours with Michael McHugh and Mohammad Aijaz this past election and I know for a fact they had nothing to do with any kind of election fraud. Both Michael McHugh and Mohammad Aijaz spent entire days out campaigning talking to thousands of students and listening to their concerns. Why would they risk throwing away all the effort that they put into this election by commiting election fraud for a few votes? It makes no sense . I would also like to see what evidence there is against them other than " some students' testimonies" I expect the disqualification to be appealed within 24 hours and hope that they are acquitted of these charges.

    • William Davidson

      For one, you have to keep your party in check. It doesn't say they explicitly committed voter fraud, but that they were being punished because members of their party DID explicitly commit voter fraud. Plus, when it comes down to "he said, she said," why would I believe your word over the word of the people who had their votes stolen? Do you honestly believe a group of people who "voted" for McHugh-Aijaz later got together for the purpose of bringing them down by pointing the finger at others in their party? What's the simplest explanation here? Do you know what Occam's Razor is?

    • UH Student

      First of all…they "spent entire days out campaigning talking to thousands of students and listening to their concerns" gives them more motive to make sure they will win by stealing votes. Are people really going to believe you? Your their friend, they could have done this before. They're corrurpt, I know McHugh has cheated the system before.

  • Justice

    As someone who was duped by these people I would like to know what PUNISHMENT the students who collected the information will receive. I’m sure they knew what this information was going to be used for.

    If any university official is reading this, the two students I saw collecting the information were:
    1. A skinny dark skinned Indian male.( he was the one with the sheet telling people it was for the faucets.)
    2. An Indian female. I saw her photo on an election flier and she is in the student Senate. ( they were together but the guy was the one doing all of the talking )

    The article calls it election fraud but it should say identity theft! I wonder what else could be done with this information.

  • https://www.facebook.com/ardouglass Andrew Douglass

    While the concept of online voting is an interesting one, it has been proven on many occasions to be an unworkable solution that just begs for voter fraud, especially considering students didn't have to log in using their PeopleSoft ID or something to vote. Even the U.S. Government found out in a trial run in 2010 that with sufficient motivation and experience, any online voting system can be hacked (http://rt.com/usa/news/hack-voting-system-dc-593/). While our system wasn't hacked technologically (as far as we know), it was hacked socially because the designers of the voting system didn't do enough to safeguard against it.

    So here are my big important questions. Will there be complete reelections? Will there be actual voting booths that require us to show (or even swipe) our student ID to vote? If not any of these things, why not? I know these are just SGA elections, but is it really that hard to protect against this kind of thing?

    • Yoyo

      The designers of the voting system are clueless. They took the Peoplesoft ID, something that can be found by enrolling in classes where grades are sent out listed with Peoplesoft numbers, or overhearing them being spoken to entry staff at the Welcome Center (for example), and combined them with birthdates, which can be guessed, and made that the initial criteria for voting. No name, nothing else. How is that intelligent?

      Frankly, I'm surprised it took this long.

      • What?

        I'd just like to know how exactly a birthday can be guessed, are you saying that they sat at computers for hours entering every date on a calendar until one worked?

  • A-Tattoo

    love how false witness’s and lies are enough to bring down a well run campaign, That annoying McHugh and his party was everyone on campus bugging me multiple times to vote with flyers. Doubt they would go through that effort to just throw it all away with some bs MICHAEL HARDING scandal….hmmmm frame much?

  • anna

    those guys didn't do it; this is just more sga politicing, those guys are cool

  • Dominik

    The testimony of a few students wasn’t enough when the same thing happened last year against Michael, but suddenly it is? You can’t seriously tell me that the person spending the most time to campaign and using the most fliers would risk the election on something like this. This is obviously another attempt to keep him out of office again. And this is what UH teaches us: Democracy is a good concept as long as the person we want to win wins. Let us all congratulate cedric and the 135% of students who voted for him. Pathetic UH… again.

  • ChristopherHolly

    Many people knew of this fraud, and it only takes the testimony of one to make grounds for a case. As the article states, more than one came forth. The real question is why some people are willing to overlook the fraud as a whole because of the amount of people who came forth. Yes, it may have been just a small number, but a violation of the rights of students is an infringement of rights nonetheless, whether it is 1 or 35,000. The election commission would not have made this decision without sufficient evidence. I know there will be appeals, so let's stop arguing and leave this to the judiciary branch.

  • Michael Blunk

    "His party — McHugh-Aijaz — was the main beneficiary from the fraudulent voting, Razakazi said." How can Razakazi claim this when all votes are sealed? These votes are private and confidential information. NOBODY, including the election commission, can see who students cast their ballots for.

    • William Davidson

      If all votes are sealed and no one can see who students voted for, how can a winner be determined? Plus, if a student found out they had "already voted," and can show ID, why can't that student find out who they supposedly voted for? Votes are probably only private up until the point that a student tells the election commission that they can look at their vote.

    • Former sga rep.

      That's incredibly stupid to say mr. blunk….that's why whenever the candidates are elected, there is a report that says who voted for you. It includes race, major, sex, and those wouldn't be available if it was confidential. Come on, you were in sga before. Don't be a wanker mate.

  • DCWS

    Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the beginning of their corrupt political lives.

  • Quikboy

    This is ridiculous. Witness testimony tends to be very unreliable, and the fact is anyone could come up and make false testimonies to implicate someone. Very much like McCarthyism. Getting convicted on these grounds, rather than pure hard evidence is ridiculous. Whatever happeneed to innocent until proven guilty? Testimonies alone do not 'prove' any form of guilt.

    Just like Andrew Douglass, who commented here earlier said, UH's online voting for SGA elections will just let itself fall towards easy corruption. As long as you know someone's PeopleSoft number and their birthday, you're pretty much set to go. Why not have physical locations like for the referendums, or set-up something through MyUH or Blackboard Vista?

    Plus I have to wonder how biased the Election Commission and the SGA judiciary branch are. I really think the university should delegate actual non-student employees to run the elections rather than students who are more likely to have connections with any candidates.

    • https://www.facebook.com/ardouglass Andrew Douglass

      I have mixed feelings about your comment. For the most part I agree with you, but saying witness testimony tends to be unreliable isn't necessarily true. The primary case here is that if I wanted to vote for Bob, but my ballot was cast for Tom before I could vote, I'd assume Tom (or someone working for him) stole my vote. The idea that these people supported other candidates by deliberately voting for someone they didn't want, then claiming voter fraud in an elaborate scheme while managing to cover it up is almost as crazy as someone saying 9/11 was an inside job.

      Whistleblowing in the workplace is the most common way of catching fraud, by far. This is an example of witnesses giving testimony, and if the witnesses testimony matches up with data (like their votes being cast for a particular candidate without their permission), I don't know why it wouldn't be considered a solid open and shut case.

      It's a shame that it came down to this, but I honestly believe the election commission looked at the facts thoroughly enough to make this decision. Hopefully in the future, the voting system will be secure enough that this won't be a concern.

      • Alen Jinkon

        Election commissioner are unbiased and are doing a great job

        • Mustafa Abdul-hadi

          No one is truly “unbiased”. Plus they are not doing their job at all. If they were then they would have done something more than a slap on the wrist to both McHugh and Bandoh when they began to campaign prior to date allowed to begin campaigning.

    • Cougar

      There isn't "just witness testimony." There has to be video evidence. They are coming up to students outside of classrooms. I highly doubt that there could be some anti-McHugh mob that's out to get him; this isn't a fiction novel. The truth is that the people under him committed voter fraud and — very likely, though not proven — voted for McHugh-Aijaz as well.

      Besides, if he didn't do anything, why would he refuse to comment on the issue? Why would he not at least make a statement saying that he didn't do it, rather than hiding behind the people running on his ticket? Why would he cower rather than stand up for what he knows is right? It seems highly unlikely to me that someone who believes themselves free of guilt would refuse to clear their name up. Just saying.

      • anna

        he commented when the complaint was filed originally; read it

        • Cougar

          "McHugh refused to comment."

  • Coogtastic

    This makes our university look bad, and it would be on or best interest to get this resolved as soon as possible!

    • TKCoog075

      Can't be as bad as A&M rejecting a non-citizen for running for their SGA president…

  • concernedstudent

    From what I know, because I have been following the story this goes beyond witness testimony, but also security camera footage inside the library. Candidates were not allowed inside the library, unless they were studying. A candidate is not allowed to hand out or get people to vote for them near a polling location. The list in the bathroom or water fountain incident broke out when a concerned student whose vote had been stolen talked to Dr. Bott. It all went from there.

    • Jess

      Although, didn't Bott back McHugh? That seems shady to me.

      • concernedstudent

        I'm not sure whom did he sponsor, but he does take it very seriously engaging students in both elections and school spirit filled activities.

      • Mustafa Abdul-hadi

        He backed Jeff Syptak.

      • Anonymous

        Bott didn't sponsor anyone via the cougar or in class, but he did endorse Jeff Syptak, not McHugh.

  • RagerBack27

    Wake up people! This is the real world and this decision has Jared Gogets written all over it… Think about it. Staff advisor for election commission is also Gogets' SPB advisor. That guy's boss's boss is Gogets' most trusted official in the upper administration and they work together on the New UC. And the new VP for Student Affairs (everyone's boss) was hired by a search committee that Gogets sat on. Jared Gogets did not want to be President, but he also didn't want McHugh to be President. And he convienently left town for New York when this decision was made. UH isn't run by SGA. It's run by a small group of extremely powerful and influential students and administrators.

    • Cougar

      What have you been smoking? Quit watching Glenn Beck, it is really screwing up your logic.

    • really?

      Are you serious? Do you also believe in the Illuminati and NWO? Damn people can string together a bunch of shit and make it seem real. UH SGA is not that important.

    • MonroeBogie

      First off, Jared Gogets may work with those people but they are professionals and can make up their own mind about their jobs. They are fully capable higher ed professionals and are here to help the students. They aren't influenced by outside entities, especially a student that doesn't even have his Bachelor's degree yet.

      Secondly, Jared Gogets was in Boston at a conference with other student unions across the country. This trip has been planned for months and his big reason for going is to help YOUR new university center be successful.

      Leave your idiotic conspiracy theories at home and like Cougar said, STOP watching Glenn Beck…try Anderson Cooper instead…he's at least respectable and doesn't cry every 2 minutes.

    • Coog09

      If Gogets wanted to control SGA, he would have ran for president and beat McHugh and Bandoh. I think the truth is that he actually hates SGA more than the crazy people who post on here complaining about it. The guy got you a new UC , new stadium and arena – leave him alone.

      • Mustafa Abdul-hadi

        He was not the only one who did those things. It was more individuals but as always people forget everyone else that works on a project, they just remember the poster boy.

    • Shut Up

      Biggest Geed Move of the Day Award goes to the scrub who wrote this post. The scum you support doesn't win so you develope a theory that one of UH's most honest, well respected leaders kicked McHugh out of office??? Did Case Keenum also lose the CUSA Championship on purpose? Shut up.

    • anon

      I spent significant time in the SPB office and he does make a point. Lots of shit talking by Gogets and the gang in particular. Lots of people from SGA, MVP, and CEO would join in as well. The whole UC Underground is full of immature adults desperately trying to relive the high school glory years, but failing miserably.

      • Kool Aid

        And the election commissioners love hanging out with the Gogets Gang as well. They drank the Kool Aid. And I agree that other fee funded orgs follow SPB's lead not just bc of the success they have had but also bc Gogets will sick his 7,000 stadium supporters on you if you disagree with him.

        • really?

          Why are people afraid of Gogets? I don't get it.

        • Slore

          I'm going to bang Jared Gogets after Frontier Fiesta tonight :)

      • really?

        What you call shit talk, I call discussion of student politics. Students are allowed to share their opinions whether it be in the SPB office or elsewhere. Plus, these are the student leaders that took the positions, its a very thankless job. And what do you mean failing miserably? What have you done for the university or community?

        • anon

          Discussion of student politics =/= shit talking. In all honesty, who really gives about SGA. It's not like the administration listens, because they don't. People getting their bikes impounded for tieing onto the rails, UHM EXCUSE ME? How about building more bike racks like we've been begging for the past what? 20 years? Don't get me wrong, UH is a great place for a great education, but there are bigger things out there.

  • Yesenia Chavez

    Just to correct Taylor McGilvray, both Brandon Balwant and Laxmi Ramana were elected for NSM, not for CLASS. I stand by Guillermo, both McHugh and Aijaz were out campaigning countless hours and should not be having to go through this. I campaigned as much as possible for my votes, and wish that whoever cheated had done so as well. McHugh should not have to pay for others faults. If members of our party are guilty for such thing, they should be the only ones disqualified, not McHugh and Aijaz who worked tirelessly for every single vote. I don't think that cheating should be overlooked, however I do think that only those with evidence against them should be disqualified. I also think that people in charge of the elections should not be students, because we do not know what affiliations the election commission has. Paid, non-student, workers should be in charge of elections so that there will be absolutely no bias throughout elections. I am hoping that justice is handed to only those who deserve it.

    • Cougar

      Again, why isn't HE making declarations of his innocence? Why are the people running under HIM campaigning for HIS innocence? If he is truly innocent, he would at least try to claim his innocence.

      • Yoyo

        He's in a bind. Deny it, suspicion. Confirm it, major suspicion. Wait a little bit to yell at his campaign staff for being morons, or to gather evidence to contest the disqualification, more prudent and maybe less suspicion.

        Give it a few hours. Something like this might even get an extra from the DC :)

    • against corruption

      If one person of the party cheated. Then i believe the whole party should suffer. They could have done this before the run off elections too. So whats to say that some of the other elected positions didn't really win except by cheating the system. In my opinion there should either A, have a whole re-election for all positions. Or B. throw out their party of corruption and give it to all the runner ups for all the positions the party won.

    • Anon

      I find this post hilarious.

      First, you want paid non-students running the election – where do you intend to find that money? Let's raise fees to counteract a) people who want to cheat for a glorified student council election and b) students who are literally dumb enough to give away their peoplesoft numbers.

      Second, you're saying that the people in charge of a campaign shouldn't be held accountable for what their subordinates are doing. Let's be honest – if the two senate candidates actually did collect peoplesoft numbers, why shouldn't we hold McHugh accountable, especially if he benefited from it?

      • Yesenia Chavez

        SGA has a certain amount of money allocated to it for each school year. Perhaps we could reduce costs elsewhere within SGA, to have a fair election.

        • stopthecorruption

          I say charge the mchugh party of corruption for the cost of the re-election! :) why should the victims (students) of this party have to pay extra for the McHugh's party's crimes.

  • trollol

    I would have voted, but I couldn't find a parking spot with all the Frontier Fiesta stuff needlessly taking up space.

    • BOOYAAHHHH

      ummm obviously you are not aware of the activities on campus. Voting ended before spring break even started. Brighten up, you're alive.

      P.S. make sure you vote next time, otherwise DO NOT complain about stuff on campus-like "frontier fiesta's stuff needlessly taking up space".

      • trollol

        if there’s one thing no one at UH complains about, it’s parking, right?

      • asdla;djsa

        He's a troll. Check out his username.

  • Will

    SGA ELECTIONS IS SURRIOUS BUSINESS YO.

  • Coogs4Truth

    I love how last year, everyone was up in arms about Harding not being DQ'ed, but now when a candidate gets DQ'ed for being involved in stealing peoplesoft numbers, everyone suddenly develops a sense of leniency.
    http://thedailycougar.com/2011/03/11/judicial-bra

    • Concerned Tech Major

      Harding should have definitely been disqualified! It seems like there's no such thing as a clean race at UH anymore!

      • TheRealStory

        Just to do some fact checking, while Harding and Premjee were almost DQ'd last year, that was because of one incident of the VP candidate allowing someone to use their phone, thereby setting up a polling location. The only proof anyone ever saw of any petition was a witness at one SGA meeting who was obviously friends with McHugh. This year, they've got several witnesses pointing fingers at McHugh's people. That's a big difference in my mind. SA

    • Anon

      Agreed! It's amazing how times change. Perhaps McHugh is just flooding this thread with his own people. Heck, Quikboy has been a vocal McHugh supporter for the entire election cycle (and is literally arguing that eyewitness testimony is not good enough). As such, we're forced to rely on Yesenia Chavez and Guillermo Lopez (both of whom ran with McHugh) for McHugh's defense because he seems to be too guilt-ridden to even pick up the phone.

      Say what you will about Harding and Premjee – at least they respected the students enough to answer to the paper. It seems that McHugh refuses to be held accountable to student media – which is a great precedent for a future student leader to set. when the DC calls.

      • Really?

        Quite honestly all these people taking his silence for guilt is ridiculous. The guy lost his office and something like this would definitely hurt any aspirations he would have in the future. Not saying he's guilty or not but answering the paper may not have been at the top of his priorities.

  • notsurprised

    Typical Michael McHugh..the guy has always been scum.

    • jaja

      then you surely must be an opponent of his

  • Caleb Rogers

    Hahah, not even out of undergrad yet and already politically corrupt. McHugh or not, somebody did that survey and scammed the vote. So much for youth changing the nation!

  • http://twitter.com/Will_Dees @Will_Dees

    This exact same thing happened last year. There were allegations that McHugh et. al were engaged in this sort of election fraud, only it didn't work well enough last year, so they tried it again and got caught.

    • not so sure

      the way i remember it harding was the person you are thinking of

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.jansen1 Brian Jansen

    hahahahaha!
    why don't they mention the video evidence in this article? surely there was some.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000006875252 Andrés García

    I foolishly filled out that form for the library thing, i though it was something silly when i was asked to but i didn't think much; from now on im not putting my PS on anything. The people responsible are scum and should be expelled from the university. I mean some one can get expelled for cheating on a test, this is just as bad.

    • william k

      Why, OH WHY, would you ever even give out personal information to begin with?

  • Disappointed Cougar

    This is not surprising to me at all. He has been heading in this direction for a long time now. McHugh BLATANTLY lied in his campaign, promising things that an SGA president has no control over. This is just a mess-up of his puts his corrupted morals in the public's eye.

    • Your Dark Lord

      Actually a great deal of things he does have a form of control over. McHugh is different from the others because he is more willing to listen to alternative ideas to make these things happen that would ordinarily be ignored by others

  • Proud Coog

    Have appeals been filed? If so, where will the appeal take place and will it be open to the public? I would also like to see the evidence that’s been collected. DC’s report on this leaves a lot out.

    The Daily Texan ran a piece today in which the topic of legal action was discussed. Lets just hope it doesn’t go too far. Everyone has the right to an appeal but suing the university of this would be a mistake.

    SGA needs to work hard to rebuild it’s reputation and upholding the ruling will be the first start. The two students who went and collected this information should be expelled. McHugh and Aijaz shouldn’t be expelled but they also shouldn’t get to represent the student body.

  • Our Dark Lord

    The trial is going to take place at the UC at 8pm on Monday, bring everyone along and decide yourself with the evidence they present if they are guilty.

  • willk

    This entire story is a joke – and so is this entire process – I am ashamed to be a UH alum at this very moment. Yeah, I bet someone didn't like the outcome, so they came forward. With just a verbal complaint, the general election can be thrown out? Lets see the cold hard facts people –

  • http://www.facebook.com/brian.jansen1 Brian Jansen

    i just wish they would punish them more severely. this is identity theft and undermining of democracy. they need their lil hinies spanked good.
    don't expell them cuz we still need all that sweet sweet money that the university exists for, but maybe put them in a cage in the quad so everyone can laugh and poke at and pee on them for a day or two?

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