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Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Student Government

REDvolution party put on trial


REDvolution party presidential candidate Charles Haston will be on trial today at 8:30 p.m. in the Senate Chambers of the University Center North to determine whether he will be removed from the Student Government Association election ballot.

The Class A violation was filed against Haston by the Election Commission for falsifying financial disclosure documents, alleging that he omitted possible payments made to host the campaign’s site, uhredvolution.com.

“The candidate (Charles Haston) submitted his party’s financial disclosure document and signed that it was completely accurate. However, the candidate omitted the cost of the campaign website on the form,” the complaint said. “Omitting the cost of the website from the financial disclosure is falsifying the document. Evidence has been brought to the Election Commission providing that this website had to be paid for in order to be ‘live’ at all.”

The website was hosted on GoDaddy.com, which requires payment for hosting. His vice presidential candidate, Erica Tat, was named as the site’s administrator.

Haston has called the allegations “baseless” and “unfounded,” saying that the site was only live for testing purposes. The site was going to be put on campaign materials — wristbands, T-shirts, pamphlets and other campaign literature — to promote REDvolution, but problems with the site could not be resolved, Haston said.

“We never used it, we never pushed it; in fact, we had so many problems with that website, we actually had to take it off all of our campaign materials,” Haston said.

Haston also defended against claims of omitting information from his disclosure forms.

“You can not submit a financial report on something that you have not paid for, nor have you used,” he said.

Chief Elections Commissioner Kendrick Alridge was “obligated” to file the complaint after another candidate brought “convincing” evidence to light.

“When you turn in inaccurate information, someone has to be liable,” Alridge said. “Every other party has turned in their information with no problem, without hesitation. We don’t see why (REDvolution) aren’t doing the same thing.”

The election code denotes campaign finance rules and regulations, and according to it, “no candidate or authorized agent shall knowingly falsify an entry on a financial disclosure statement or in his or her financial records associated with the campaign.” However, Alridge hopes to challenge the “knowingly” language in the code.

“We don’t think that people’s feelings or intents should play a role,” Alridge said. “If that’s the case, then there would be no point in the rules, and someone could say, ‘Oh, I didn’t knowingly do that.’ There would be no repercussions.”

The Election Commission has recommended the removal of Haston and, effectively, Tat from the ballot.

All complaints were reviewed by Attorney General David Ghably, which were found to be merited. The UH SGA Election Trail board will hear the case. Ghably will be the prosecutor in the case.

“I’m not saying that they’re innocent or guilty, I don’t know all the details, but it doesn’t look like anything was intentionally done to try do anything wrong,” Ghably said. “They’ll have their chance to explain themselves, and hopefully it’ll just be a misunderstanding.”

A second complaint was filed against the REDvolution party for failure to submit marketing approval forms for the campaign website. Ghably said that members of the party were “unaware” of its existence. The complaint will also be brought to trial.

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