Oxford First-year Senate Candidate Oscar Li (24Ox) was disqualified from the first-year senate race on Sept. 20 after earning the most votes in the election. He garnered 123 (6.83%) of the 1,799 votes cast by 344 students. The voting period opened on Sept. 17 and closed on Sept. 18.
The Oxford Board of Elections disqualified Li due to three minor campaign violations: the usage of unapproved campaigning material, an inaccurate expense report and spending over the expenditure limit of $25. According to the Elections Code, it takes three minor violations to be disqualified, Oxford College Student Government Association (OxSGA) President Andrew Yang (23Ox) wrote in an email to the Wheel.
Yang said that Li was notified of the investigation on Sept. 19. The Board confirmed the nine new first-year senators and announced Li’s disqualification in an email sent to the Oxford student body the following day.
Amiee Zhao (24Ox) and Aaron Zhao (24Ox) — who both received 83 votes and tied for ninth place — are set to replace Li’s senate spot. Because Li was disqualified, both candidates are able to take positions as First-year Senator. If Li was granted a spot in the Senate, Aimee Zhao and Aaron Zhao would have competed in a runoff election.
Li told the Wheel he plans to appeal his decision in a hearing with OxSGA’s judicial council.
On Sept. 16, Li hosted a meet-and-greet where he offered boba and encouraged students to come together to socialize and discuss ideas. In an effort to promote the event, Li used pre-approved campaigning material which had been edited to include information about the meet-and-greet, resulting in the first violation.
The boba event cost $297.71, exceeding the $25 cap established by the Elections Code and contradicting Li’s prior expenditure report of $0. This marks Li’s second and third violations.
Li told the Wheel the cost was split between himself and a group of 15 friends.
All candidates were provided with an abridged version of the Elections Code during the primary information session, as well as a full Elections Code following the session, Yang said. Both documents contained information pertaining to budgets and allowed expenditures.
However, Li believes the Board did not make the rules pertaining to expenditures clear to the candidates during this first info session.
“I was aware of [the $25 cap], but what I wasn’t aware of was [OxSGA’s] definition, or what they define as a campaign expense or event,” Li said.
Some members of the Oxford student body are standing in solidarity with Li.
“I don’t think he was really trying to solicit votes,” Charunya Bheem (24Ox) said. “I think it was a fun way to gather opinions and ideas of all people.”
Oher students supported the Board of Elections’ move. Ananya Singh (23Ox) voiced support for Li’s disqualification, indicating that “nearly $300 is a lot to spend on an Oxford SGA election.”
Additionally, Li said that he believes he was not the only candidate with multiple minor violations.
“I respect the results,” Li said. “I truly support the newly enacted senators, but there were other violations … committed [by other candidates] which were also not investigated.”
OxSGA Vice President of Elections and Charters Olu Abitogun (23Ox) explained that OxSGA already dealt with most violations, and none were large enough to merit full disqualification.
Yang maintains that it is difficult for the Board to thoroughly monitor every Elections Code infraction, noting that the Board was not made aware of Li’s violations until the voting period had already begun.
The Board relies heavily on students to make them aware of such violations, Yang added.
Oxford SGA’s judicial council has only recently filled its seats, with their two first-year associate justices being selected on Sept. 20. Li believes the new associate justices will need at least three weeks to train before making a decision on his appeal.
However, Yang said the first-year associate justices will be able to aid in making the decision, noting that it only takes a few days to get acquainted with Oxford SGA’s governing documents.
“The hearing requires submission of evidence, which would take a few days and the associate justices would be trained during [that time],” Yang wrote in an email to the Wheel. “It will not take three weeks for the judicial case to be presented to the Judicial Council.”
Despite their differences, both OxSGA and Li both concur on working toward improvement and building a better system in equity and communication.
“Oxford SGA is committed to ensuring that equity and justice is granted for everyone in our community,” Yang said. “No systems are perfect, and conversations like these are how we move towards a better community together.”
Li agreed, voicing his support for OxSGA.
“I feel like SGA is an essential, critical part of this community,” Li said. “I respect SGA, I respect the results, and I wish all the best for the newly elected senators.”
News Editor Eva Roytburg (23Ox) contributed to reporting