On Friday, Student Court handed down a decision in Trasolini v. AUS Elections Committee which concluded that this year’s AUS Presidential Election is “void and of no effect”.

Upon reviewing the decision, Brian Platt sent an email to AUS council announcing that he was stepping down immediately. Elysia Pine, who was elected as AUS VP Internal this year, ascends to the presidency on an interim basis until the AUS can figure out what to do next. Basically the two major details that need to be worked out:

1) Who is the interim president? Should it be Elysia or should AUS council appoint someone else to fill this role?

2) When should the by-election be held? Could the AUS really hold a legitimate presidential election during exams, or worse, during the summer? Or is September the only viable option?

There will almost certainly be a special AUS council meeting held this week devoted to figuring out these details. Unfortunately there’s no obvious best course of action here.

The Student Court decision itself is an interesting beast. The reasoning behind Trasolini’s decision to file the initial complaints, and the process behind how this elections dispute was elevated to the level of Student Court, both appear to be reasonable and straightforward. The condensed version (apologies to Mike Silley, who will be completely omitted to keep things simple):

Students in AUS elections could cast ballots either online or by paper ballot. Final vote tallies are the combination of online + paper ballots. When the initial count of paper ballots took place, it was discovered that the WebVote report containing online vote tallies had been damaged, completely obscuring the vote count for Brian Platt and partially obscuring the vote count for Ryan Trasolini. Going based on his memory of the report, Matthew Naylor took the online vote totals as 180 for Brian Platt and 170 for Ryan Trasolini. The results of the paper ballot count were 34 for Ryan Trasolini and 24 for Brian Platt with no disputed ballots. Based on this information, the combined results ended in a 204-204 tie between Platt and Trasolini. In the event of a tie, AUS electoral code is quite clear, stating “The Elections Administrator may not regularly vote in elections. However, the Elections Administrator shall cast the deciding vote in the case of a tie.” As AUS EA, Matthew Naylor voted for Platt, who was declared the winner.

Subsequently, Ryan Trasolini obtained a fresh copy of the WebVote results which clearly showed the previous online vote tallies reported by Naylor were inaccurate. The genuine online vote counts were 178 for Platt and 170 for Trasolini, which, with a 34-24 paper ballot count, would leave Trasolini as the winner by two votes with no tie-breaker needed. Naturally, Trasolini appealed the previous results and the appeal went to the AMS Elections Committee. His dispute focused only on online vote totals, and not the count of paper ballots. Despite this, a recount of the paper ballots was performed by the AMS Elections Committee, resulting in a different total. With online ballots now 178-170 in favour of Platt, paper ballots were revised to be 33-25 in favour of Trasolini; another tie. For the second time, Matthew Naylor cast a deciding vote in favour of Platt.

However, during the recount of paper ballots, three ballots were identified where the intent of the voter was in question. All three of these ballots ended up being counted: one for Trasolini and two for Platt. The decision to not spoil these ballots and who to count them towards was simply a judgement call made by Ricardo Bortolon, acting as Chief Returning Officer for the AMS Elections Committee.

These disputed ballots formed the basis for Trasolini to proceed to Student Court. Trasolini took particular exception to one ballot in particular, which he felt should have been spoiled rather than counted towards Platt. Student Court was asked to simply rule on whether or not to uphold Ricardo’s decision to count the questionable ballot in favour of Brian Platt. That’s it. A ruling to decide the validity of a single ballot which will decide the AUS Presidential Election. [ed. Most UBC students think student politics is petty? I can’t imagine why.]

Once the complaint landed in the hands of Student Court, however, the process by which they arrived at their final decision to declare the entire election invalid is confounding, even to regular readers of Code such as the editors of this site.

The end result is that Student Court found the way AUS elections were administered this year to be in violation of AMS code. In the case of a violation of AMS Code, the AMS bylaws give Student Court the ability to “declare that an action is void and of no effect, and that the organization must take the appropriate steps to remedy the situation.” Having found the AUS Elections Committee in violation of AMS code they promptly declared the presidential election void and of no effect.

Matthew Naylor, this year’s AUS Chief Electoral Officer who was representing the AUS Elections Committee at Student Court, took a highly critical stance on the ruling in a Radical Beer Tribune article earlier today.

The AUS Elections Committee certainly can’t claim innocence in all of this either. How the original WebVote document got damaged, and why Matthew Naylor’s recollection of those numbers was incorrect will never be reasonably explained. How the original paper ballot count had no contested ballots but there were three, along with different totals, during the recount also raises eyebrows.

However, at this point I would describe the reasoning behind finding the AUS Elections Committee in violation of AMS code as being opaque and in all likelihood flawed. (A wonktastic piece delving deeply into the basis behind the ruling could be written but will not be covered right now. Possibly later, or possibly not at all.) It has been revealed that Student Court did not look at the AUS 2010 General Election Regulations as part of their deliberations, a significant oversight. Despite this, a new ruling is not expected. Even if a new ruling was issued with different findings, the fact that Brian Platt has already stepped down makes this a moot point: the bottom line is that the AUS still has the little problem of having no president and will have to deal with that the best they can.


13 Comments so far

  1. Justin on April 18, 2010 2:23 pm

    A most sensible and fair treatment of the issue. Thank you, Neal!

  2. Campbell on April 18, 2010 5:00 pm

    Very succinct, good reporting.

  3. Alex Lougheed on April 18, 2010 5:45 pm

    Obvious flaws in the student court’s rulings include:

    1. Is it appropriate for them to consider outside of the question asked before them, and prescribe a remedy not sought by either party?

    2. If the entire elections are now in doubt, why is only one race being remedied? Furthermore, why aren’t the SUS elections now in doubt (disclosure: I was the SUS EA for last round of elections), as the SUS has effectively the same rules governing their elections.

    In my opinion, there’s more invalid code that this is bringing up: that of the student court.

  4. Alex Lougheed on April 18, 2010 5:51 pm

    Also, it’s ridiculous to expect the same standard of electoral oversight between AMS and constituency elections.

    Why? A question of power, and resources.

    The AMS is a legal body that controls over $10M of public funds, whereas constituencies are creations of the AMS, subject to oversight by the AMS.

    The AMS Elections Administrator was paid over $7k for their job this year. The SUS EA was paid $200. SUS doesn’t have the capacity to pay for the degree of oversight this ruling begs.

    Should ‘judges’ really be deciding that constituencies ought to raise their elections budgets by a factor of at least 35, so elections now compromise 11% of the overall budget?

    Probably not.

  5. Anonymous on April 18, 2010 7:57 pm

    Fun Fact:
    The EUS EA was not paid at all, as he was required to regulate the First-Year Council Elections in September.

    Additional fun fact:
    The EUS spent $150 on their advertising.

    32% voter turnout, higher than Science, Arts, and Human Kinetics Combined.

    Let constituencies handle their own elections. Meddling from third parties is unnecessary.

  6. ~*~Sexy Brunette~*~ on April 18, 2010 11:15 pm

    Dear Anonymous:

    The only reason the voter turnout was that high was because of ridiculous and dramatic candidates, plus the new ubcvotes system.

    Without the AUS & SUS EA the EUS elections wouldn’t have even HAPPENED…AUS paid the bill and the AUS/SUS EAs were at every event working their asses off and manning the polling stations/online voting. Where was EUS and HKUS?

  7. Taylor Loren on April 18, 2010 11:24 pm

    I’m starting to think that Student “Court” shouldn’t be considered an Issue That Matters in the future. Instead, it should just be considered a hilarious joke that is Foxtrot worthy.

  8. Anonymous on April 19, 2010 11:01 pm

    Dear Sexy Brunette,

    1) I find it hard to conceive how any candidate could be more ridiculous and dramatic than a Calamari running as AUS Arts Rep.

    2) If I recall correctly, said Calamari plus a fellow Jedi were elected. Certainly a testament to the $45,000+ spent encouraging students to come out and vote!

    3) Point of information: EUS elections have been happening every year since 1919 without UBCVotes.

    4) Please elaborate how someone could man an online voting booth? This sounds like a scene from TRON.

    5) Did UBCVotes actually ask HKUS and the EUS for volunteers and/or money?

  9. Matthew Naylor on April 20, 2010 12:53 am

    1) Clearly you didn’t attend the EUS candidates forum. Also, I find your remark insensitive to the Mollusc-Canadians at our school.
    2) You’re overestimating the costs by about $10000 there, bucko. Also, who are you to question the democratic will of the electorate? The Admiral is a dedicated and experienced rep, running with the benefit of incumbency.
    3) You don’t use points of information to volunteer information. You use them to ask for it.
    4) That’s actually a reasonably accurate description of the experience. No motorbikes though, which sucked.
    5) Yes.

  10. Eric on April 20, 2010 6:45 pm

    @ Matthew: Great Rebuttal (I think I used the right term)

    @ Sexy Brunnete: IMHO, Calamari can be as great a leader as any human (I think you’re comparison is to that), especially if they’re the Admiral. In fact, I know the Admiral and he is a lot more intelligent than Calamari/Squid I’ve eaten or know of.

  11. Tarkin on April 20, 2010 8:47 pm

    Student court is a trap!

  12. ~*~Sexy Brunette~*~ on April 20, 2010 9:21 pm

    I love calamari.

    I also love Matthew Naylor.


  13. Laura on April 24, 2010 1:03 pm

    Why was it ever considered a viable option to declare the election results based on Matt Naylor’s memory, when it was possible to procure another copy of the WebVote results? I can see the highlighter ballot being a gray area, but this one I don’t understand.

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