UTSU GM Pt III: more pressure for electoral reform, emphasis still online
FEB 14, 2013 | BY ISAAC THORNLEY
At the Tuesday, February 12 Special General Meeting (SGM), a motion was passed recommending the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) make major electoral reform in time for this spring’s election. By Wednesday afternoon, it was clear that no such reform will be adopted this year.
The motion was largely inspired by the Non-Partisan Declaration on UTSU Electoral Reform, a document drafted anonymously by UTSU opposition outlining several recommendations, chiefly a move to online preferential voting, as opposed to the current first-past-the-post paper balloting system.
Time constraints and logistical issues were cited as reasons for not implementing online voting. The results of Tuesday’s meeting came too late to revise the Election Procedures Code, the document that governs the elections. Saturday was the last day to revise the Code and members of the Elections and Referenda Committee maintain that to implement online voting would have required them to “pre-judge” the results of the SGM.
Then at the UTSU Board of Directors meeting held Wednesday afternoon, the Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC), the body charged with the task of revising and making changes to the Election Procedures Code, presented the Board with a legal report documenting the recent history of the UTSU’s electoral process and recommending various reforms. Any changes must be ratified by the UTSU Board of Directors.
Smaller scale changes were made to the Election Procedures Code in time for the spring elections, such as reducing the number of nomination signatures required to run for an executive position (from 200 to 100).
Though the report acknowledged that “a thorough and complete analysis of electoral systems is beyond the scope of [the] report,” it explicitly advises the UTSU against a move to online: “It appears that online voting has its own set of problems. In particular, there are very limited, if any, checks and balances in place to ensure that the voting is conducted fairly, and in conditions that are not prone to bias and misuse.”
Ella Henry, member of the ERC, also noted that the Board is not required to heed any of the recommendations of the report, as it “[is] for the information of the Board, the Committee, and the people making changes, but it is not decisive in any way of what changes will or will not be made.”
Despite the fact that these more substantial types of electoral reform were discouraged by the legal report, UTSU Board members do intend to debate these issues in time. Many do acknowledge their responsibility to represent the opinions of the student majority that voted in favour of the motion at the SGM. Trinity College Representative Calvin Mitchell addressed the board, saying, “In terms of what transpired last night at the SGM, with students voting in favour of implementing online voting for this year, are we not going in bad faith against the students by not respecting what that body has asked us to do?”
Sam Greene, head of Trinity College, spoke with the newspaper prior to the Board meeting, “I expect them to pass a motion requiring the upcoming elections to be held online. If they don’t do that, they would be contravening the will of the membership that was expressed directly by the SGM.” Trinity, the Engineering Society, and St. Mike’s have announced plans to defederate from the union, citing concerns over lack of electoral reform implementation. The fact that nothing will come as a result from the vote at Tuesday’s SGM will only serve to further polarize and antagonize the opposition.
Today marks the beginning of the nomination period, and thus the beginning of the 2013 UTSU elections. To run for a position, pick up a nomination package during the nomination period at the UTSU office.
- Subtitle: Colleges still angry, vote will not affect spring elections