After ACLU Intervention, University Drops Charges Against Arkansas Students Who Sought to Investigate Voter Fraud in Student Election

Affiliate: ACLU of Arkansas
February 27, 2004 12:00 am

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ACLU of Arkansas
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LITTLE ROCK– The American Civil Liberties Union of Arkansas today announced the dismissal of disciplinary charges against two student government senators at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville who were charged with harassment after seeking to investigate voter fraud in a student election.

“”The lesson to be learned from the dismissal of the charges against the students is that you can fight city hall, or in this case, the University of Arkansas,”” said Grif Stockley, a staff attorney for ACLU of Arkansas. “”But you have to know your rights and be willing to stand up for them as these two young men did.””

The issue arose last November after concerns were raised about widespread voter fraud in a student election on the issue of raising the Student Government fees. There were reports of multiple voting, voting by non-students, and other irregularities. For these reasons, the Student Government Association voted to stop the election; two weeks later they voted to initiate an investigation into the matter of how the election was conducted. The fees issue was never voted on.

The ACLU clients, Andrew Long and Carlton Saffa, are elected members of the Student Government Association (SGA) and are members of the Oversight Committee, one of two groups charged by the SGA with investigating the election. They requested information from students and university employees about their involvement in the election and in some cases filed Freedom of Information Act requests.

Some of the people they questioned objected to receiving Freedom of Information Act requests, claiming that the requests and other investigatory measures amounted to harassment. University disciplinary proceedings against Long and Saffa were then formally initiated. Long and Saffa were given notice to appear at a Judicial Board hearing today, but yesterday the students were notified that the hearing would be cancelled and the charges dropped.

“”These charges were ridiculous to start with and I’m glad the University saw the light,”” said Charles Kester, an ACLU cooperating attorney from Fayetteville who had agreed to serve as the students’ advisor at the hearing.

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