For the second time in the past year, it seems like, candidates and winners of the AMS elections will once again be going to student court. My thoughts on this is that the process, and candidates’ inability to accept defeat, hurts not only the candidates, but the AMS itself, which doesn’t seem to be able to get its act together and spends time trying to create drama instead of getting on with business as usual. What this recent development means is that instead of trying to get on with transitions, Blake is going to have to fight this matter in court, and then wait for the approval of AMS council. If he wins, he’s still wasted time, and if he loses, Alex now has to catch up on all the stuff he missed while the matter was being investigated. The result? Less gets done, student representation goes on the backburner, the AMS and election candidates come off looking petty, the AMS looks like it’s more concerned with drama than governance, the EA doesn’t seem trustworthy, candidates seem unable to handle losing, and in the end, students’ interests are set aside. Lots of politicking, little action- have we learned nothing from Canadian politics?

And how do students see it? Well, first of all, it seems like candidates are more interested in their self-interests than the interests of students. Rather than accept defeat and help the new elected official, they refuse to accept election results. Yes, in some ways it’s important. But with something like this- a slate? really? a secret one that no one knew about? after complaining when people talked about a Sauder slate, which is about just as plausible? – it just seems petty. Most students don’t care for AMS drama. In fact, most students avoid student politics for this reason exactly. This doesn’t help the image people have of the AMS in the least, nor does it encourage people to get involved in the student body.

There’s also this notion that the number of people who vote for a candidate is actually indicative of who it is that students want. I would venture so far to say as that’s not actually the truth. I think it’s fairly obvious that a lot of people win on sheer popularity, or because they can get to students first. Lots of students will simply vote for you if you ask them to. I don’t think there’s really much to be said for ‘the will of the majority’, when I don’t think that all that many students actually research candidates. I know some people who voted for candidates simply based on name, or because they thought that joke candidates were funny. So while a 42 vote win might not say much, Alex beating Blake by up to 50 votes wouldn’t say anything either. I feel that what the current system does is give the best campaigner and most popular candidate the win- sometimes it just so happens that the best candidate is also the most popular, or has the best campaign team. Not meaning to knock the candidates here- lots of them would do a good job. I just don’t think the electoral system elects people on the basis of merit, so complaining about it as if it does, I feel, is silly. I think it’s fairly obvious, also, that faculties often unite behind a candidate- I have a feeling that Science did last year behind Duncan, as Commerce probably did this year behind the Sauder candidates. So again, not really much merit to who gets elected, so much as faculty pride and popularity. This means that students interested in student politics are left feeling like the system isn’t working the way it’s intended to. Say what you will about Condorcet voting, but popularity still plays into it.

And then there’s the notion of slates and the EA. Most students didn’t know the candidates, didn’t go to the debates, didn’t see classroom announcements- what makes you think that a ‘slate’ would then affect them, especially when it’s a super-secret-hush-hush-slate? Most students don’t know even know what slates are, and couldn’t care less. Most see it as a petty matter, again. If this slate is supposed to be “evident to a reasonable person”, and this reasonable person just happens to be the person who is the greatest competition to the winner of the election, I’d also think twice about whether it’s an actual slate. It’s possible that Alex was just reporting on something he saw as being odd, but I would think that the EA would at least contact Blake to ask for an explanation before disqualifying him. If anything, this makes students wonder about the objectivity of the EA, and further highlights the weaknesses of the system.

Lastly, the evidence, which I’d love to see, and which came from a candidate who is apparently friends with Alex Monegro, and who would also have to work with Blake if this whole thing doesn’t pan out- I feel like this could be problematic for the executive’s ability to work as a team this/next year.

In any case, I feel like there are several possibilities for what this evidence might contain.

1.) Blake was part of a slate and didn’t tell anyone about it. I don’t think there’s a problem here for obvious reasons- no one knew about it, so it hardly benefited voters.

2.) Blake was part of a slate and told people about it, and told people that he was running as part of a group of candidates. Firstly, we’re talking about a candidate who knows the rules, who ran a clean campaign, and who probably wouldn’t want to jeopardize his chances of losing. Why he’d do so in front of his opponents or other candidates sort of puzzles me. But if he did, yes, that’s problematic, and then the EA has grounds for disqualification.

3.) Blake was not a part of a slate, but talked to other candidates about their platforms and similarities with his own plans. Unless there’s a rule that says that candidates can’t have similar platforms, or that they can’t talk to each other (including talking about how awesome it would be if friends all got elected and got to work on a team together), I don’t think it’s a problem. Presumably, people who are in the system and know how it works can have similar ways of trying to approach things, especially if they worked together. Unless you make a rule about friends not being able to run together, or people not being allowed to have similar platforms (because it’s impossible to have the same issues be important to several candidates?), or candidates not being able to talk to each other, I feel like it’s a moot point.

4.) Blake was not a part of a slate, but told people that his platform resembled that of other candidates, so if people were voting for x, then they should vote for Blake because he stood for similar things. Again, not sure this is a problem. It’s like saying “if you like lower tuition, and I like lower tuition, you should vote for me”. Only instead, you’re saying “if you like lower tuition, he likes lower tuition, and you’ve voted for him, then you should naturally vote for me because I also like lower tuition, and it’s only consistent with what you think”. And seeing how many candidates campaigned for lower tuition, this sort of thing wouldn’t be problematic. And again, it’s possible for people to have similar platforms. In fact, a lot of the platforms from this year had parts that were very similar. I don’t see this as a huge problem- it’s certainly not exactly a slate.

I’m also curious to know what the context of this evidence is. Last I checked, there were no rules preventing candidates from associating with one another, or from talking to others. It’s pretty unconstitutional (according to the Canadian Constitution) to bar people from associating with others. Also, apparently “innocent until proven guilty” does not apply to the AMS elections?

Also, for the elections committee: perhaps, if candidates are going to be punished for making announcements in the same class together, it should be made clear that this sort of behaviour won’t be tolerated and will be seen as slate behaviour. Giving a go-ahead on this point when asked directly if this sort of thing is allowed then does noth
ing to show that any electoral rules were violated.

In any case, I feel like this really is an issue for the AMS as a whole. Is there going to be an election at some point where none of the races are contested? Where there aren’t any irregularities? People keep talking about representing student interests- I think it’s important to keep in mind that most people don’t even know the name of the people on the AMS exec, so however this works out, the majority of the student body probably won’t care, or even know about it, anyway. As for those student who do care, or who may be interested- this is hardly a way to get them involved. Those of you who talk about greater student involvement- take note.


2 Comments so far

  1. Amanda Reaume on February 8, 2009 5:56 am

    I seem to currently be very committed to procrastinating from writing my thesis, so I will comment. Great breakdown of what has occurred. I’m shocked and disturbed by all of this and want more information, and a viewing of the video in question!

    It seems to me that the majority of voters (let alone the majority of the VFM community – who actually followed the election) had no idea that Frederick ‘ran’ as part of a slate. If this ‘slate’ was so hush, hush that no one knew about it, it’s arguable that it effected the election. Or that it actually existed in any real sense – or at least not in the sense that the election by-law meant to guard against.

    What seems more likely, is that Blake violated the slate election rule in a one-time videotaped occurrence by suggesting that he supported other candidates, or that they were running together. I say that it was probably a one time occurrence, because if it happened more frequently… people wouldn’t be so surprised by all this. The VFM community would not be so perplexed.

    So, what is an appropriate punishment for such an infraction? Did this indeed make the difference in getting Frederick elected? Does suggesting that you’re running with other people once constitute a ‘slate’ even though the most diligent election watchers didn’t notice your ‘slate-itude’?

    This is an election that was decided on less than 50 votes, so it’s understandable that Monegro would be concerned and also complain. It’s important that elections are fair. I’m not sure if I agree with the punishment though. The AMS finally gets a record amount of students to vote and then promptly invalidates the results of that vote by disqualifying the president-elect? I remember now why I’ve stayed away from student government during my two UBC degrees, despite being very active on campus.

    Whatever happens, I hope Sarina will not be attacked. She is a wonderful person, a friend and a committed EA. She worked very hard to make this election happen on very short notice and even managed to institute Condorcet! That’s an achievement in itself, and one that was accomplished as a notoriously underpaid AMS employee.

  2. Tanja on February 8, 2009 10:02 pm

    Let’s get over the nonsense that the current post-elections controversy is the result of EA bias. What’s happening right now is the result of vague and incoherent election code that does not serve the interests of students and candidates. The question of what an ‘apparent slate’ is needs to be answered, in detail, by current council so that Rehal and all future EAs have a set of coherent rules to enforce. Candidates have a right to submit complaints and the EA has a duty to examine evidence and rule accordingly. If there is strong evidence of another ‘apparent slate’ this needs to be addressed immediately, I hope that anyone with compelling evidence will step forward and present it. We need to guarantee that the AMS is run by honest candidates who conduct themselves by the rules designed to ensure that they are accountable to us at all times. Finally do not forget that we owe a debt of gratitude to Rehal, who in an incredibly limited time put together an election that saw the highest voter turnout in 2 decades. Three cheers for our EA.

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