The latest in a series of complaints brought forward to the UTSU Chief Returning Officer (CRO) is raising new questions about the procedure of this year's UTSU elections. On Tuesday night, Michael Scott, a U of T undergraduate student and candidate for the UTSU board of directors, filed a formal complaint to CRO Daniel Lo regarding this year's ballot for president.
The ballot featured the name of the only eligible candidate, Danielle Sandhu, along with two boxes for voters to choose from marked “Yes” and “No.” Scott believes this contravenes the UTSU's own election regulations which state that the ballot must contain the votes of “In Favour,” “Against,” or “Abstain” for the candidate.
Scott believes that putting ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the ballot is a suitable replacement for ‘in favour’ or ‘against,’ but that removing the choice to abstain changes the voting dynamic. “The abstain choice is very important because it allows students and members of UTSU to constructively state that they are dissatisfied with an elections process that only delivers them one candidate. Without it there is no constructive outlet, and the net result is that many people will either spoil their ballot or won't show up to vote.”
When asked to comment on the matter, Chief Returning Officer Daniel Lo referred the newspaper to the official decision with regards to the complaint, which stated that “the C.R.O. has investigated and determined the current 'Yes' or 'No' ballot options have been found to be an acceptable alternative to the 'In Favour' or 'Against' or 'Abstain' ballot options based on precedence.”
Michael Scott is not convinced by this reasoning, and believes it show an unfair slant in the UTSU elections process.
“Systemically there are some issues that make it difficult for people who wish to challenge the incumbents to even run,” Scott said, noting that prospective candidates are required to collect 200 signatures to be eligible for a UTSU election, compared to 100 signatures to run in a federal election, or 25 to run in a provincial election. “The democratic process is bettered by having more choice and more people running, not by having arbitrary restrictions to test the meddle of candidates.”
Scott says he will be appealing the decision regarding his complaint, adding that he “really does not think the CRO should be ruling on a decision that he made.”
To this most recent complaint about ballots, one could add several others in the preceding week, including accusations of “aggressive campaigning,” campaigning within six metres of a library, overlapping posters, and for “not including an environmental protection and recycling phrase on a leaflet.”
Election time is a typical outlet for finger-pointing and minor complaints, but more substantive concerns with the overall structure and nature of campus elections are an important topic to be addressed by all those involved in the near future.