Student elections end amid budget controversy and resignation

Campus elections have come to a close once again. Five new paid members of the UVSS have signed on and nine new directors-at-large, with two who were re-elected, eager to begin their terms. However, as the posters are torn down, traces of controversy still stick to the walls.

Yet again, voter turnout has declined. In 2012, 20.9 per cent of eligible voters took minutes out of their day to log on and vote. In 2013, there was an 18.9 per cent voter turnout. This year, 17 per cent of undergrads voted.

Emma Hamill, Deputy Electoral Officer said, “It seems like our percentages are really low, but when you compare it on a broad scale with other Canadian universities, we have a really high voter turnout.” At UBC, there is a similar electronic voting system. Their voter turnout in 2014 was 22.4 per cent. The University of Alberta had a 21.6 per cent voter turnout in 2013.

Kayleigh Erickson, a director-at-large (DaL) in 2013-14, was elected as the Chairperson for 2014-15. Two DaLs from 2013-14, Eric Cameron and Nick Tang, ran again for a second year and were successful in reclaiming their positions as DaLs. The remaining nine non-salary DaL positions, and four executive director positions which will receive a salary, were filled with new faces.

Students elected Erickson over one other chairperson candidate, Matt Hammer. Hammer is currently the 2013-14 director of finance and operations. He was running on a platform of making people feel like their voices are heard, increased accountability, and transparency. This would’ve been accomplished in part by making student professor evaluations public to students and pushing to get students involved in municipal elections.

Erickson’s platform included restoring people’s faith in the UVSS, and a more progressive mental health program hoping to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health. She also wants to reduce the salary for the paid UVSS positions.

The majority of the people running in this year’s election were part of one of two slates: Vision and Link. The only position that had an independent candidate was director of events. Casey Lazar, the independent candidate, lost to Link candidate Ian Kopp by seven votes. Also running for that position was Vision’s candidate—Ian Lackie. Among other close calls, Alison Root, who ran for director of student affairs, lost by 78 votes, and Moiz Karim was almost elected as one of the 11 DaLs, losing by only two votes.

As is usual, there were around three to 11 spoiled ballots per category. To spoil an online ballot someone has to click on both candidates and hit submit. If this happens, the computer will prompt the voter that they have spoiled the ballot by clicking on both parties and it will ask if they wish to continue. There was some concern over the spoiled ballots, given that Casey Lazar lost by seven votes and there were eight spoiled ballots; however, eight spoiled ballots is an average amount for the UVSS elections.

What election is complete without a small scandal? This year did not disappoint. For the UVSS elections, those who are running have a specific budget on what can be spent for promotions. For university Senate and Board of Governors positions, candidates can spend as much money as they want. When filing their expenses, the elections office found discrepancies in both slates’ expenditures.

Jamie Cook, a recently elected Vision candidate for DaL, said, “Both slates filed it, Vision and Link, and the elections office thought both slates went over, so, and they were threatening to disqualify us both.” In Vision’s case, the budget question had to do with their bold blue sweaters, which had the position each candidate was running for printed on the back, but also the slate name (the same for UVSS candidates as Senate candidates). According to Cook, Vision budgeted the sweaters that were specific to Senate candidates to the Senate budget, rather than their limited UVSS budget. He says the sweaters were expensive—$25 each—and that was the reason for the distinctive budgeting.

On that subject, Hamill said, “Some people were concerned ‘cause they were wearing them around areas that were polling stations. These sweaters have been used in the past and hadn’t had any issues, so it was just a matter of allocating which ones directly mentioned Senate and which ones directly mentioned UVSS, and [the electoral office] just had to do those basic calculations so that everything was fine and under the limit.”

In the end, said Cook, “It was just kind of a clerical error. The chief electoral officer eventually ruled that neither slate went over budget.”

The Board of Governors (BoG) election, however, is subject to a byelection. One of the two students that were elected onto the BoG resigned following the results. Matt Hammer was elected, but he only has three courses left to complete his degree. Hammer said in an email, “Those three courses would have filled the year if I was elected chairperson, but it would simply cost too much to spread them throughout the whole year if not working as chairperson.”

The Office of the University Secretary is calling for nominations to fill the empty BoG position. The deadline for nominations is March 24. Elections for this position will run April 10–14 at webvote.uvic.ca.

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