In an unprecedented decision, the King’s University College Students’ Council elections committee has disqualified presidential candidate Jonathan Lesarge from running.
Lesarge, the current vice-president student issues for the KUCSC, was in the process of vying for the position of 2014-2015 KUCSC president when his campaigning efforts came under scrutiny.
After failing to meet the deadline to declare presidential candidacy and surpassing the market value limit placed on campaigning material, Lesarge accumulated demerit points exceeding the 20-point limit, requiring his removal from the campaign.
While an appeal and reevaluation by the committee conceded a lowering of Lesarge’s 24-point demerit penalty to 21, the original decision of disqualification was upheld.
In a statement released by the KUCSC on their Facebook page, the council noted that Lesarge’s initial violation, a failure to declare his candidacy on time, should have been enough to prevent Lesarge from running in this election.
“[We] would like to note that without completed candidacy forms, usually a candidate would not even be allowed to run. Jon was given a grace period to hand in such forms and still failed to meet the requirements for candidacy.”
While an exception was made that allowed Lesarge to run, he was disqualified after accepting donations from a friend for his campaign website and video that surpassed the $100 limit.
The KUCSC fair market value policy states that donations or discounts received by the candidate will count toward their election budget in proportion to their standard value on the market.
In a Facebook post, Lesarge stated that he believes this policy does not take into account the inherent nature of student elections.
“The reality is that in student elections we rely on the efforts of our friends to help us make our campaigns manageable — candidates call upon friends who are skilled at graphic design to make posters and videographers to make YouTube ads,” Lesarge wrote.
“Student elections would not be possible without the support from friends with various skills.”
Aside from Lesarge’s concerns, there have been complaints from students concerning the vagueness of the policy and its failure to account for the market value of the labour put into the campaign.
While current KUCSC president Jen Carter admits the policy is unclear, she believes the spirit of the policy justified the committee's decision.
“At the end of the days it’s about making sure there is a level playing field for all candidates,” said Carter, who is running for USC vice-president external on Team Helfand.
“In this case it means that if one person has resources at a free or discounted value, they should be expected to pay what the other candidate would have to pay at market value.”
Lesarge’s disqualification follows his recent conflict with the KUCSC’s honorarium committee addressing alleged performance issues in his position as vice-president student issues. While it was decided Lesarge would face a fine and a requirement to submit apologies, Lesarge faced further confrontation after failing to submit the apologies on time.
When asked in an interview whether he thought this previous conflict affected the decision of the elections committee, Lesarge responded, “I think the fact that the elections committee is composed of council members, in that scenario is problematic, and the fact that the [chief returning officer] defines what fair-market value is, is also problematic but I can’t say anything more than that.”
However, in response to this concern, Carter confirmed a special effort was made to keep these two issues divided.
“The elections committee is very separate from the honorarium committee, there is no overlap in the members. The elections issue was kept completely separate from the honorarium committee issue, which were his performance issues as vice-president,” Carter said.
“I am very proud of my committee to be able to separate the two. The key people in the elections committee who I’m told spearheaded the discussion about the demerit points were actually unaware of Jon’s behavioural issues.”
With Lesarge’s removal, the remaining presidential candidate David Castillo will face a vote of confidence today and tomorrow.