Elections complaints committee recommends disqualification for ASI student candidate

Committee ruled evidence of campaign interference met burden of proof


Alyssa Branum

The hearing for complaints filed against Nikita Akhumov by Isabella Jimenez for the 2023 ASI elections in the University Union, Wednesday, May 10, 2023. The Committee released its decision regarding that hearing on Wednesday, May 24, recommending Akhumov be disqualified for campaign interference.

Jacob Peterson

The Associated Students Inc.’s Elections Complaint Committee recommended Nikita Akhumov be disqualified from his position as director-elect of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies due to the violation of campaign interference rules in the race for the position, according to a case decision released Wednesday.

The recommendation by the committee followed the filing of two complaints against Akhumov from fellow candidates; however, Akhumov said he would appeal. 

Associated Students Inc.’s Director-Elect of Social Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies Nikita Akhumov during the Anti-Semitism Town Hall in the University Ballroom, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2023. Akhumov said he denies witnessing his volunteer interrupting other candidates and plans to appeal the Elections Complaint Committee’s decision. (Jacob Peterson)

Lillian Weese and Isabella Jimenez, who both ran for the position of SSIS Director against Akhumov, filed complaints alleging a volunteer for Akhumov engaged in campaign harassment and interference during the spring 2023 ASI election. Jimenez’s and Weese’s complaints alleged  Akhumov’s volunteer would interrupt them while speaking to potential voters, as well as yelling comments like “there are other candidates.” 

The complaints committee decided that Jimenez’s complaint met the burden of proof and qualified as interference, though not campaign harassment. The committee ruled Weese’s complaint failed “to meet the burden of clear and convincing” evidence, relying solely on her own testimony.

“I’m thankful that the committee was entirely just,” Jimenez said. “I’m just glad to have been heard.”

“I’m thankful that the committee was entirely just. I’m just glad to have been heard.

— Isabella Jimenez

According to the decision on Jimenez’s complaint, the committee found several inconsistencies in the testimonies of Akhumov and his witnesses during the hearing regarding whether Akhumov was aware of one of his volunteer’s behavior. The committee decision read that since there was only a 33-vote margin between Akhumov and Jimenez, it was reasonable to say interference could have affected the election results.

Akhumov said he would be appealing the decision, believing there was not enough evidence provided to prove interference. Akhumov said he did not witness any interference from his volunteer, and he believed there were inconsistencies in the committee’s decision.

“The burden of proof was not met,” Akhumov said. “They chose to believe one candidate over the other.”

“The burden of proof was not met. They chose to believe one candidate over the other.

— Nikita Akhumov

Akhumov said he believed the committee needed to be calm and objective and that for this hearing, they were not, saying some members were visibly frustrated during the hearings.

“These committees need a framework that provides the value of evidence,” Akhumov said. “This decision did not provide that framework.”

Weese’s complaint and testimony were found to lack sufficient evidence to result in a recommendation for punitive action. Still, she was glad the hearings resulted in the disqualification recommendation, Weese said. 

Both Weese and Jimenez said the actions of Akhumov’s volunteer had made them feel uncomfortable during campaigning.

“It really was concerning behavior,” Weese said. “We don’t want anyone to have to feel like we did.”

While the committee has recommended disqualification, the final decision falls to Vice President of Student Affairs Ed Mills.

Mills said individuals have a short time to appeal once the committee’s decision is posted. If an appeal is filed, an Appellate Council will review the process to make sure it was followed correctly; if no issues are found, the decision will stand. Should the decision stand the runner-up in the election, Jimenez, would take over the position of SSIS director, according to the ASI election code.