The Discipline, Interpretation and Enforcement Board met Wednesday evening to discuss and rule on an appeal from Students’ Union President-elect William Lau, who was disqualified Monday night due to third party campaigning.
Chief Returning Officer Wayne DeFehr had ruled that posts advocating for Lau on the Chinese Students and Scholars’ Association’s (CSSA) Renren page were equivalent to mass emails, which are against elections rules. Furthermore, the CRO ruled that Lau hadn’t appropriately distanced himself from the third party campaigning.
The posts resulted in a $403.70 fine, which pushed Lau $200.32 over his campaign budget, therefore disqualifying him.
In his appeal, Lau said he had attempted to distance himself by contacting the CRO once he became aware of the posts, but the CRO was unavailable.
“When I was made aware, I tried my best to get into contact with the CRO and (Deputy Returning Officer) and await their instructions,” Lau said in his DIE Board hearing.
“I have always been on the side of caution throughout my whole campaign.”
Lau brought forward four witnesses, including two CSSA members who described Renren as a “Chinese version of Facebook,” rather than a private mailing list. The members, Rissa Cao and Jack Chen, translated the Chinese posts to English and said the posts were to promote student democracy, not Lau.
“We never said, ‘William Lau is your choice.’ We encouraged students to participate and see whose platform they liked better,” Chen said.
“Renren is a public social centre. If you don’t have an email account, how can you have a mailing list?”
The other witnesses, Linh Lu and Sangram Hansra, confirmed that Lau had attempted to contact the CRO and the CSSA once he was aware of the posts.
Respondents to Lau’s appeal weren’t present at the hearing, but DIE Board chair Cian Hackett read from the documented response to Lau v. CRO, which was submitted with an omitted name.
The arguments in the response drew upon Bylaw 2200, declaring that Lau’s appeal shouldn’t have taken place because voting has already commenced. Furthermore, the response noted that Renren’s use in campaigning was prohibited, since it wasn’t expressly permitted by the CRO.
The response also used a 2013 case as precedent to argue that despite Lau being unaware of the third party campaigning, the CRO may still impose counterbalancing fines.
“Even if Mr. Lau was not aware of the third party campaigning and took no part in it, he can still be made subject to counterbalancing fines at the CRO’s discretion, making the CRO’s ruling legally defensible,” the response read.
Lau argued in his hearing that the context surrounding each case was completely different.
The DIE Board tribunes finished deliberating around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday. Hackett said the ruling will be finalized, written up and submitted to Discover Governance before it is posted online Thursday. Tribunes wouldn’t confirm what time on Thursday the ruling will be made public.
With files from Richard Catangay-Liew.
More to come…
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