The Graduate and Professional Student Association tabled certification of the 2019 presidential election until the Court of Review can hear a complaint filed against president-elect Muhammad Afzaal.
The decision to table was approved unanimously by the election committee Monday evening during a special meeting. A second meeting on Monday, this one to appoint justices to the Court of Review, was called off after GPSA’s Council could not muster the six-person quorum required by the GPSA Constitution
The complaint, which was provided to the Daily Lobo by GPSA, alleged that Afzaal violated GPSA’s bylaws that prohibit campaigning within 25 feet of a polling station. It also alleges that Afzaal pressured students on North Campus to vote for him.
“He could have told people to vote and stated his intention, but once people were on the website he needed to leave the area to prevent affecting that person’s vote,” wrote Joslyn Gabaldon, who filed the complaint.
Gabaldon said the incident occurred on April 4, while she and a handful of her colleagues were studying for a quiz on North Campus. She said that Afzaal approached the group of pharmacy students to make his pitch. He then told them to check their emails for the GPSA link. Gabaldon told him they would do it after they studied, but Afzaal was insistent. Gabaldon said one of her colleagues, Ryan Dow, needed to reset her password to vote.
“(He) literally would not leave her vicinity and would watch her computer screen until she voted, until she clicked on his name and he saw that. She felt very pressured in order to vote for him,” Gabaldon said.
Dow said Afzaal did the same thing to other groups. She also said Afzaal came into the classroom where the students were set to take their quiz.
Caleb Howard, another one of the pharmacy doctoral students in Gabaldon’s study group, said Afzaal was insistent when he asked them to vote.
“It made me feel uncomfortable because I’d be willing to vote if he showed me a non-biased orientation to ‘who are the candidates.’ I thought it was a little unethical that he was telling me to basically vote for him,” Howard said.
“These are baseless allegations,” Afzaal said.
Afzaal said he didn’t remember the interaction, adding that he talked to hundreds of students while campaigning. He said he showed students how and where to vote, after being asked.
“I didn’t hang around them, harassing them or forcing them to vote for me, but I own my right to request them to vote,” Afzaal said.
The results of the election showed Afzaal taking 72 percent of the vote in an election where 8.8 percent of UNM graduate and professional students voted.
What Happens Next
It’s up the GPSA Court of Reviews to determine if a violation was committed. It then goes back to the Elections Committee if a recall election needs to occur, according to the GPSA Constitution and Bylaws.
As of the publication of this article, the Court of Reviews of GPSA remains incomplete — at least two of the seats remain unfilled.
“In recent semesters, due to lack of student inactivity, the Court of Review has not been established,” wrote Ben Brandley, GPSA Communications Chair, in a press release.
A special meeting to appoint students to the court is set for Thursday, April 18 at 7 p.m. in the Trial/Spirit Room in the Student Union Building. Two students have already to fill the positions.
As for Gabaldon, she thinks some sort of change is an order.
“Obviously, it’s ridiculous to ask candidates to avoid all laptops on a college campus, but since he is directing us to the GPSA website and telling us exactly where to go and knowing that we’re voting, I don’t think it’s appropriate that he was still in the vicinity when he knows that we're voting,” Gabaldon said.
Justin Garcia a staff reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers student government. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Just516garc.