Politics is a messy game, and this was certainly demonstrated during the final week of this year’s Concordia Student Union election. A lot of the issues, though, could easily have been prevented had solid policies and practices been in effect.
Your Concordia candidates were upset with Action members for wearing their blue campaign shirts inside out during the voting period when candidates are prohibited from campaigning. Last year, the Chief Electoral Officer sent out a directive prohibiting members from wearing campaign shirts, inside out or otherwise, during the voting period. Why this wasn’t the directive from the beginning of this election remains unclear, but it was finally put into effect on the last day of voting, By then, however, it was meaningless. Slates were still allowed to wear shirts that matched their campaign colour, so long as they did not contain campaign material.Either have an explicit and effective bylaw or don’t. There’s no point in banning inside-out campaign shirts while allowing plain shirts of the same colour.
Tightening or eliminating election rules like this is a vital step to ensuring a fairer election process. It also ensures that when the rules are broken, significant consequences will be felt. A simple “talking-to,” as was often seen this year, is simply not effective.
There also appeared to be a lack of training for the polling clerks who manned the booths, as several voters came forward to say they’d been handed multiple ballot cards for certain races. Though the CEO wrote such mishaps off as rare occurrences, the fact remains that in some of the closer races such “mishaps” could have changed the outcome.
Many clerks also did not seem to know anything about election policies. When I went to vote, they couldn’t tell me how I was supposed to mark the ballot, whether it had to be a check mark or a completely shaded circle, or if that even mattered. This sort of instruction could easily have been written on the ballots.
Worse, I was not asked to present my student ID when voting. What was stopping me from assuming the identity of non-voters to help stuff the ballot box? Nothing, apparently. Polling clerks need to be made fully aware of election procedures and the seriousness of their job.
When it comes to elections at Concordia, no position is as vital as the CEO, a title held by Oliver Cohen for the past three years. Whoever replaces him next year needs to have a better rapport with media outlets.
Cohen had been next to impossible for The Link and others to reach, which has often left us in the dark regarding the intricacies of this election.
While being difficult to reach is understandable given that he’s only one person, the students have a right to know what is happening in their democracy and Cohen was often a barrier to that. So, either someone needs to be hired to deal with media requests, or the CEO has to understand that communicating with the media is a part of the job.
Whether these improvements happen or not is up to you, the students. The only way these flaws can be fixed is if they’re voted on in a referendum. Your Concordia are well aware of the problems with the electoral system and have promised to change them, but November’s referendum is far away and students may forget.Let Your Concordia know today how you feel about CSU elections, so the next one doesn’t have to be as messy.
Assistant News Editor
This article originally appeared in The Link Volume 31, Issue 29, published April 5, 2011.
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