If you’ve been anywhere outside on campus today, there’s a good chance you’ve been approached by candidates from all three slates currently running for student elections. You may have also noticed a Woke UVic table outside the SUB with a laptop for students to cast their vote.
Some students have raised concerns that this affects the integrity of student elections, but digging into electoral policy doesn’t make it explicit that these polling stations aren’t allowed.
UVSS Electoral Policy does not actually say anything about polling stations run by specific slates. Policy 5.8 (Disqualifiable Offences) only states that candidates may be disqualified if they distribute or post any campaign material “within sound or 6 metres of a polling station during polling hours” or “loiter at a polling station during polling hours.” These are re-iterated in Policy 7.2 (Responsibilities of the Candidates).
As for what defines a polling station, Policy 7.1 (Accessibility) only says that stations must be located in “each of the Student Union Building, Clearihue, and the McPherson Library,” and “each of Engineering Lab Wing, MacLaurin, Fraser, Fine Arts, Commons Block, Engineering and Computer Science.” There is nothing in the policy that explicitly approves or prohibits polling stations that are managed by a specific slate.
UVSS Elections Chief Electoral Officer Emma Hamill confirmed with the Martlet that there is “nothing in policy” that bans those stations. “Our office has encouraged [slates] to inform voters of unpartisan, private polling stations available and to direct students here [sic] that feel more comfortable.”
“Because all slates are now doing it, in our opinion there is no unfair advantage,” she said at 12:42 p.m.
However, at time of writing, there’ve been no reports of Unite UVic allowing people to vote at their table outside the SUB, and Encompass UVic has not set up any tables, opting to spread themselves around campus. When asked if they were operating any Encompass-run polling stations, the Martlet was provided with a statement:
Electoral policy insists all persons must preserve secrecy and integrity of voting. Encompass believes that this is brought into question from these biased polling stations. Encompass has never and will never operate a polling station. That is the job of the electoral office. Encompass is committed to preserving a fair and open democracy.
So while Woke’s polling station may not be breaking any rules by technicality, it might be a break from the spirit of the policy.
This is the latest in a series of controversies surrounding this election. On Monday, images of an alleged conversation between Unite UVic candidate Brontë Renwick-Shields and a UVic student surfaced that put the slate on the defensive. Early this morning, Unite UVic announced that Director-at-large and Board of Governors candidate Ocean Grant had withdrawn from the race over concerns for their mental health. And UVSS Elections announced that this morning’s ballot allowed domestic students to vote for Director of International Student Relations in error; the polling time for that position has been revised to run for 24 hours starting today at 11 a.m.
The Martlet will have more on this story as it develops.