Issue 37, Volume 85
April 3, 2013
Mired by controversy, complaints and allegations of corruption, the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance general election roused the attention of those seeking office students trying to their ballot in a democratic election.
The election had been scrapped once last month due to broken policies and the previous byelection saw hundreds of students disenfranchised with no resolution.
Students voted through referendum to leave the Ontario Undergraduate Students’ Alliance and opted to used the remaining space in the former pub – the rest of which has been allocated to the UWindsor Bookstore – as a new restautant.
Unofficial results show that a total of 16,495 votes were cast for executive positions with an average of roughly 2,750 votes per position and 717 votes per candidate.
While elections for faculty representatives, board of directors, board of governors, senate and referendums faced little problems, one member of the electoral monitoring committee who wished to remain anonymous said there was issues with executive elections and the disqualification of candidates.
“There have been complaints [about] executive positions, [which] have been dealt with by [chief returning officer Ebenezer Fordjour], and [they] are going to EMC,” explained the member, adding that decisions regarding disqualifications would be made by Thursday when council votes on the election result.
Disqualified candidates include Cameron Gray, running for vice-president social, Caroline Jacobson, for president, Jordan Renaud, for vice-president administration, and Mahmoud Shahwan, for vice-president university affairs.
These candidates were informed an hour before the UWSA Rock the Vote event at MYNT nightclub last Thursday that they had been disqualified; more than one explained that Fordjour chose not to include justifications for disqualification.
Renaud, a former deputy returning officer and CRO, finds it “faulty and invalidating” to not tell disqualified candidates what they were being penalized for. “By not giving the candidates [and] withholding that information, it makes it impossible to
Candidates had 48 hours following the election to submit an appeal. Election policy states submissions must be made in writing, but the matter was complicated by the fact that the election’s website stated that submissions be made by e-mail.
The anonymous EMC member wouldn’t comment upon whether Fordjour followed proper policies when disqualifying candidates, they did say that “going forward, it’s certainly that needs to addressed in future elections.”
Polls closed last Thursday at 9 p.m. and multiple candidates have complained that Fordjour didn’t adequately address the best route to submit appeals during the Easter weekend as the university was effectively shutdown.
At the time of publication, Fordjour has yet to post election results in a public space. While photographs of unofficial election results were uploaded to Facebook, election policy states that the results must be affixed outside of the UWSA head office.
The Lance obtained photographic evidence that the CRO had failed to post election results at the CAW Student Centre 24 hours following the close of polls.
“There was no list about candidates posted at the UWSA office before the elections,” said UWSA student administrative clerk Alicia Trepanier, who added that a list wasn’t posted during nor following elections.
Renaud believes that Fordjour should have better promoted the election, that the EMC should have done more to ensure that Fordjour was held accountable and adhered to bylaws, that campaign finance regulations should have been better explained to candidates and that more supervision was required by Fordjour.
“It’s my understanding that the CRO, regardless of other things, has been mostly absent from the office, [and] would respond to e-mails [late],” explained Renaud.
“As CRO, every day and every hour is vital [and] to not respond to e-mails for 72 hours, that’s a problem.”
The Lance identified 28 UWSA election policies and seven UWSA general policies which may have been broken or ignored during the course of the election.
The Lance reached out to Fordjour to comment upon on the allegations of election misconduct. Fordjour deferred the questions until Thursday’s UWSA council meeting. Despite the fact that the meeting is public, a Facebook post at I0 p.m. Monday night by the CRO’s account stated that “only council will be privilege
to these full details listed above, first.”
When asked a series of questions pertaining to the election, Fordjour responded that his office “has many priorities, and meeting your journalistic deadlines is not
one of them.”
Mohammad Akbar, who was recently elected to the newly created vice-president external position, explained that while many policies are “up to the CRO’s
discretion” that “if there’s actual rules violations, that’s something that needs to be looked at and that should be brought to council.”
A major point of contention during the election centred around campaign finances.
Election policy states that executive candidates have a $300 spending limit of which up to 66 per cent can be reimbmsed. Many candidates have come to The Lance saying that the policy was not enforced.
“There was no real limit on how much you could spend, just how much you could be reimbursed by the organization,” explained Brandon Baioff, who ran for vice-president finance. He said there was a “limit on the physical items that you could have.”
Multiple candidates also expressed that the CRO failed to collect or demand receipts from candidates demonstrating proof of payment and cost of campaign
Council voted on Feb. 14 to scrap the requirement of candidates collecting nominations from students to run in the election saying that doing so could open the door to pre-campaigning. This opened the flood gates to more candidates
than in previous years.
Reimbursements for candidates – 66 per cent of $300 for executives, $200 for a campus-wide position and $100 for a segment position – combined with the
influx of new candidates means that more UWSA money this year was handed out to those running for office.
ISSUES WITH VOTING
Multiple students reached out to The Lance explaining that they had difficulty voting and in at least one instance a part-time student was able to vote in the
election, which is exclusive to full-time students.
Sarah Passingham was unable to vote in the election and received a notification on the election website saying she had voted when she had not.
“I contacted [Fordjour] who tried to fix it for me, said it was fixed, though it wasn’t when I tried it and then suggested I use another computer to vote,” explained
Passingham. “By then, it was late on the 28th, so I was never actually able to vote.”
Part-time student Joey Acott attempted to vote out of curiosity and found that while he was able to cast a ballot for the majority of contests, that only two of his
selections didn’t save and were rightfully not counted.
“I was shocked and just thought my friends were wrong about [part-time students being unable to vote],” said Acott. “I wouldn’t be surprised if someone messed
with the system.”
Other students have come forward with allegations that they couldn’t vote and felt like they had lost their opportunity to effectively participate in the election.
Executive director of Information Technology Services Bala Kathiresan explained that his department has yet to receive a formal complaint regarding the electronic aspects of voting and that the department “needs to know the specifics” to “investigate these types of complaints.”
Students have alleged in private to The Lance that several newly elected executive members have ties to Student Operated Computing Resources (SOCR) and could have had the ability to affect electoral results. SOCR is a student-funded computing resource group that offers web hosting, shell access and other technical services.
Kathiresan explained that while SOCR’s servers are located in IT Services, many other organizations and clubs have similar servers. He added that club members must identify themselves and sign into a log book before gaining access.
“I checked the log and nobody has been here since March 2, of 2013,” said Kathiresan, adding there is no overlapping of access to servers and that SOCR can access only their server.
Outgoing vice-president administration Alyssa Atkins attempted to help with the execution of the elections but was rebuffed by both Fordjour and council.
“I came to the CRO right at the beginning of elections with a lot of ideas, [but] throughout the process he kept pushing me aside,” said Atkins.
During a Feb. 7 UWSA council meeting which saw members attempt to fire Fordjour, Atkins volunteered to take over the duties of CRO as her portfolio contains oversight of elections.
“At that time, I told council that I was more than happy to take on the duty of the CRO and would have a very experienced DRO. Council chose to keep the CRO, at which point he pushed back even further I tried to get involved.”
Atkins also noted that Fordjour repeatedly missed scheduled meetings with her without providing justification and upon asking when EMC meetings were being held she “never got straight answers. I was told that EMC meetings were private and confidential and that I wasn’t welcome at them.”
At the March 15 UWSA board meeting, Fordjour proposed a $2,000 raise for himself and a $425 raise for the DRO. The salary of the CRO is $6,000 and $2,000 for the DRO.
“He said that he had experienced a higher work load than past CROs because of all of the societies in the election that had run, and the volume of the byelection and the general election,” explained Atkins. She said the “board decided it wasn’t appropriate” but did however grant the raise to the DRO citing the fact the current salary wasn’t at par with last year’s wage.
Ken Lewenza, president of the Canadian Autoworkers’ Union, explained that preserving the integrity of elections is of the utmost importance and that ‘the
only thing that we get in our elections are whether the election campaign [and] the candidates were ethical, and that’s hard to determine … there’s all kinds of accusations.”
“The reality is, anybody who screws around with democracy [to] predetermine an election … it’s not really democracy,” said Lewenza. “It’s supposed to be an open, transparent process and everybody is supposed to have the same access to electability as evelybody else.”
The CRO will present the official election report on Thursday, April 4 to the UWSA council for approval. The meeting is in Toldo Health Education Building, room 203, at 5:30 p.m.
Jon Liedtke was the Features and Opinions Editor, Associate News Editor, Advertising Manager and Deficit Consultant at the UWindsor Lance.
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