Okay, Western. Let’s all just take a deep breath.
Solid Twitter panic last night. I was thoroughly impressed. I mean, you could’ve done better. Maybe next time try rioting or razing some buildings or something. But the impulsive, panicked reaction online to the launch of the 2011 edition of the University Students’ Council election was a nice touch.
But frankly, if I was running for senator-at-large, I might have been a little frenzied myself. Here’s the deal.
When the keenest of the keen went online to vote in the USC elections early this morning, they found they were only able to vote for one senator-at-large. Seven senators are elected to the position and traditionally students are able to cast seven votes.
But according to an e-mail from Chief Returning Officer Adam Smith sent to all nine senator-at-large candidates that was obtained by Blog the Vote, Smith was instructed by University Secretariat Erika Hegedues on Monday to reduce the number of candidates students can vote for from seven to one. This despite the fact that all senatorial candidates were asked to approve the following ballot Monday morning:
While Smith is the CRO of most of the USC elections, Hegedues is in charge of both the Senate and Board of Governors elections and has final say in both those matters.
Here’s an excerpt from Smith’s e-mail to the senatorial candidates:
“Earlier today, I received a phone call from Erika informing me that I was to change the number of Senators-at-Large candidates a student can vote for from 7 to 1. She assured me this is the way it has always been done and that IT would be taking care of the reprogramming of the ballot. Again, let me stress that UWO administers these elections, not the USC.
The ballot I sent you for review was what we had planned on using up until I received this phone call. Unfortunately, I do not have the ability to change anything at this time.
That being said, we will be looking into it again in the morning. This does not mean it will be changed. If anything does, I will inform you immediately.”
It may not seem like the biggest issue from the outside looking in, until you realize that some of the senatorial candidates ran as a slate. Candidates Michael Ciniello, Alysha Li and Adam Fearnall all ran a joint campaign anticipating that students would have seven votes and be able to vote all three of them in. Now, with the rug pulled out from under them mere hours before the voting period begins, the senatorial candidates are feeling misled. Ciniello had this to say about the matter via e-mail late last night:
“Some heads up would have been nice, at least for campaigning purposes. I entered into a joint campaign with two other candidates because we had a similar vision and set of ideas for the senate next year. Now that only one vote can be cast, the possibility that the majority of our supporters votes will go to only one of us looms overhead. We all would have done a lot more individual campaigning if we knew this was going to happen. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens.”
Meanwhile, Vivian Leung, another candidate for senator-at-large, told me late last night that she had also been telling voters that they would not be forced to choose simply one candidate:
“It affects anyone, including myself, who has been telling voters that they don’t need to make a choice between one and another candidate because we would love to work together and would appreciate getting voted in together.”
The principle of giving every student just one vote isn’t the issue here. The playing field is still level and, if anything, the best candidates would get in because students who aren’t informed on all of the senatorial candidates wouldn’t simply be picking sixth and seventh names at random to fill their ballots.
What’s at issue here is that the senatorial candidates ran their campaigns under the assumption that voters would not have to pick just one of them. That severely changes the dynamic of their campaign. If students were only going to receive one vote, that should have been determined before the campaign period ever began — not a few hours before the polls open.
I’m sure we’ll find out more about this on Tuesday but as of now it appears that Smith won’t be able to do anything about this and students will only have one senatorial vote this year. With polls closing Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. and more and more students voting with every passing hour, there are certainly a lot of senatorial candidates out there feeling like they got the raw end of the deal.
So that said, it’s a big day I guess
Because the elections issue of the Gazette is out, of course. What — is there something else going on?
Oh yeah, that whole voting thing. When you’ve got a moment, do your part and first get informed and then vote.
I cannot stress this enough — don’t vote if you’re not getting informed first
How do you go about getting informed? As far as objective sources go, might I suggest today’s issue of the Gazette or Pat Searle’s Fuss on the Bus elections special as starting points. This blog ain’t bad either.
Just please read something before you vote.
Really, that’s the most important thing today. Don’t just vote because you feel like you have to. Don’t just vote for the guy with the video you like the most. Don’t just vote for the hot one. Actually read up on the candidates, check out their platforms and get informed.
Boosting voter turnout would be great, but I’ll take a 20 per cent share of campus that is informed over a 50 per cent share of campus that just votes for the name they recognize any day of the week. Remember, this is the highest position on your student union — it’s a very big, important, influential role. Don’t just hand your vote to someone without doing your homework.
And don’t just brush up on the presidential elections either. Learn about the senatorial candidates and the board of governors candidates as well. The USC representatives on the board of governors sit on the highest governing body of the university. It’s a big freakin’ deal.
But if you’re not going to get involved, that’s cool. Just don’t vote. You’re not helping.