Referendum mishap stirs confusion for students

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Questions abound from students when the terms of the UVic Pride referendum were changed in the middle of the voting period.

When the referendum originally opened for voting today at 9 a.m., the UVic Webvote page said that the referendum required 67 per cent ‘yes’ votes (quorum for any referendum being 15 per cent of the voting membership) to pass.

Later this afternoon, students noticed that it said 50.01 per cent was required.

Speaking with the Martlet this evening, Emma Hamill, Chief Electoral Officer of the UVSS Elections Office, said that the error was noticed at approximately 3:30 p.m. and fixed immediately. A statement was issued on the Elections Office website, quoted in part as saying:

This morning, polls for the 2015 Fall Referendum opened at 9:00am PST as per schedule. Included in this morning’s ballot, the WebVote system highlighted that a 2/3 vote was required to pass. This information was incorrect. The UVSS Constitution and Bylaws (found on our website uvsselections.com/policy) clearly states Bylaw 3.1. “Membership fees may be altered by a majority vote of a referendum.” As per Bylaw 4.7.d “Quorum for a referendum shall be fifteen percent [15%] of the voting membership.” Therefore, of fifteen percent of the student body, 50.01% of voters must vote in favour of a referendum for it to pass.

Once the mistake on the WebVote ballot was brought to the attention of the Elections Office, the University’s administration was contacted to make the change. The ballot was changed to the correct requirement of majority vote as per Bylaw 3.1. We apologize that this oversight was not caught earlier.

Hamill was not available for further comment at this time.

A number of students took to social media, including Reddit, Yik Yak, and the newly created UVic Students for Free Speech Facebook page, to question why the change was made, with some wondering if it was an intended to allow the referendum to pass with less support.

The UVSS released a statement at approximately 10 p.m. stating that the UVSS Elections Office is independent from the UVSS, and that all questions about the referendum should be directed to Hamill.

The full statement from the UVSS Elections Office  can be found here, and is also quoted below. The Martlet will have more on this story as it develops.

Statement from UVSS Elections Office

As per UVSS Election Policy, the Elections Office has the responsibility and authority to conduct elections under the Electoral Policy Manual, independently from the Board of Directors and the Electoral Committee, and impartially among candidates and slates.

Our Electoral Policy is based on the principles of: respect for the democratic process and persons involved in that process, the right of voters and candidates to participate in a fair and just election, and fair and open processes for resolving election issues, including adjudications.

With these principles in mind, we would like to emphasize the third principle and be transparent and open with the student body, the voters. This morning, polls for the 2015 Fall Referendum opened at 9:00am PST as per schedule. Included in this morning’s ballot, the WebVote system highlighted that a 2/3 vote was required to pass. This information was incorrect. The UVSS Constitution and Bylaws (found on our website uvsselections.com/policy) clearly states Bylaw 3. 1. “Membership fees may be altered by a majority vote of a referendum.” As per Bylaw 4.7.d “Quorum for a referendum shall be fifteen percent [15%] of the voting membership.” Therefore, of fifteen percent of the student body, 50.01% of voters must vote in favour of a referendum for it to pass.

Once the mistake on the WebVote ballot was brought to the attention of the Elections Office, the University’s administration was contacted to make the change. The ballot was changed to the correct requirement of majority vote as per Bylaw 3.1. We apologize that this oversight was not caught earlier.

The UVSS Elections Office is an independent office within the University of Victoria Students’ Society (UVSS), set to facilitate and offer unbiased and impartial information regarding elections and referenda concerning students. All student elections within the UVSS are organized and supervised by the UVSS Elections Office.

Sincerely,

UVSS Elections

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