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Notes from Council: Students take issue with tabulation of elections’ results, ratification occurs

After some debate, councillors ratified the 2024 UASU elections results. Meanwhile, students demanded that results be presented transparently.

On April 2, students attended the University of Alberta Students’ Union (UASU) Students’ Council meeting to express concerns on how results were tabulated in the 2024 UASU elections for the vice-president (academic) race. Councillors also ratified the results of the 2024 UASU, Students’ Council, and General Faculties’ Council (GFC) elections.

Council appointed Yaatheshini Ashok Kumar and Sheroz Hamid to the Discipline, Interpretation, and Enforcement (DIE) Board.

Students ask for transparency in the way elections’ results are presented to the public

On March 13 and 18, vice-president (academic) candidate Farah Elgaweesh attended hearings with the DIE Board. Elgaweesh was appealing to overturn rulings made by Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Jacob Verghese. These rulings disqualified her from the 2024 UASU election due to exceeding campaign expense limits. On March 19 and 21, the DIE Board released their decisions and Elgaweesh remained disqualified.

During open forum, students raised concerns about how Elgaweesh’s votes were not presented in the general election results.

According to Marc Dumouchel, the UASU general manager, when the Elections Office’s software encounters a disqualified candidate’s name, it stops counting their votes and activates the instant run-off voting (IRV) system.

In IRV, voters rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate gets a majority of first-place votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Their votes are then redistributed based on the voters’ next preferences. This process repeats until a candidate wins with a majority of votes.

”It is apparent that students at-large are losing trust in the UASU,” Elgaweesh says

Haruun Ali, former 2022-23 arts councillor, urged council to “ensure that votes are properly presented.”

Elgaweesh, who was present at the open forum, said that “there’s no bylaw stating that these results should not be shared or tabulated publicly.”

Later in the meeting, Verghese confirmed that less students had voted in the 2024 UASU general election.

“Given the context of this election and significantly lower voter turnout this year, it is apparent that students at-large are losing trust in the UASU,” Elgaweesh added.

Asha Jama, incoming General Faculties Council student representative for the faculty of nursing, sought to give council feedback on “evidence gaps” she identified within the UASU bylaws. She said council’s proposed changes to bylaws regarding elections processes do not encompass or address “major concerns and issues” that were faced during the general election.

Jama said the Elections Office was “retroactively charging” Elgaweesh “long after concerns and issues [were] recognized by the Elections Office.”

”It’s important to put checks and balances on the use of power by the Elections Office to ensure that they are competent,” Jama said. “This can be accomplished by clearly defining what basic level of communication needs to be upheld between the CRO and the candidates in the bylaws”

Councillors ratify results for 2024 UASU elections, separate from vice-president (academic) race

Atwood and Vice-president (academic) Pedro Almeida moved to separate the ratification of the vice-president (academic) race results from the other UASU election results. With 12 votes in favour and three opposed, the motion passed.

Next, barring the vice-president (academic) race, President Christian Fotang and Vice-president (external) Chris Beasley moved to ratify the results of the UASU, Students’ Council, and GFC elections. The motion passed with seven votes in favour, one opposed, and four abstentions.

Councillors have differences in opinion on another DIE Board hearing

Next, councillors moved to ratify the results of the vice-president (academic) race. They debated the motion.

Atwood expressed concerns that Bylaw 320 does not specify that the CRO can disqualify candidates for exceeding campaign expense limits. He said he wanted to send this to DIE Board for further review and clarification on if the CRO has this power.

“I just want to make sure that we’re ensuring interpreting the laws 100 per cent how they should be,” he said.

Board of Governors (BoG) representative Stephen Raitz agreed that there isn’t “immense clarity,” but people have been asking for “the communication of the results — not questioning the disqualification.”

Raitz added that he “advocates against a motion that further muddies the waters on what the powers are when the DIE Board has made their decision.”

Vice-president (operations and finance) Levi Flaman agreed with Raitz. He said the legislation didn’t permit candidates to exceed expense costs. Additionally, he said the DIE Board had “weighed on” the issue of the CRO’s qualification in several rulings “even if it wasn’t specifically worded.” Almeida, however, disagreed.

“To say the DIE Board has already commented on it is an inappropriate summary of what they commented on, because they only evaluated the fine aspect and never the power of [the CRO’s] qualification,” Almeida said.

Vice-president (academic) results ratified, proposed changes to elections related bylaws

Atwood and Almeida moved to postpone ratifying the results of the vice-president (academic) election until the April 16 Students’ Council meeting to get clarification on the CRO’s power per Bylaw 320 from the DIE Board.

With two votes in favour and 11 opposed, the motion failed.

Fotang and Beasley moved to ratify the results of the vice-president (academic) race and direct UASU staff to communicate how results were tabulated by the April 16 Students’ Council meeting. With six votes in favour, one opposed, and six abstentions, the motion carried.

Lastly, Raitz and Faculte Saint-Jean (FSJ) councillor Jillian Aisenstat moved to approve the first principles of elections related bylaw amendments.

Per the motion, Bylaw 140, 320, and any additional impacted pertinent bylaws would be amended to insert and remove certain provisions. These changes are intended to provide greater clarity on the relationship between candidates, their campaign volunteers, the CRO, and Deputy Returning Officer (DRO). In addition, they proposed potentially removing the limits on appealing a DIE Board decision.

Raitz clarified that these bylaw amendments are to improve future elections processes and provide clarity. According to the order papers, these amendments are not an attempt to retroactively change the results of the 2024 UASU election. The motion passed with 10 votes in favour and one opposed.

Aparajita Rahman

Aparajita Rahman is the 2023-24 Staff Reporter at The Gateway. She is in her second year, studying Psychology and English. She enjoys reading, and getting lost on transit.

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