The Slate System Is Flawed

Graphic Clement Liu

This election season showcased the usual poster night protests and campaign complaints (pre- and post-), but all of these complaints are minor details considering that the whole slate system is flawed.

The problem doesn’t lie in putting together an executive team. It stems from the councillors who have a lot of power. Council is where the real decision-making takes place. The council decides which referendum questions should be voted on. They decide on new CSU employees, and they keep the executive team in check.

Council members are a group of individuals who are leaders in their own rights, from too many different faculties to name. When people from different faculties come together, it’s inevitable
that heads will clash, but that’s what keeps the spirit of democracy alive. So why are they being lumped into one package and branded with slate names?

All councillors should remain independent so the goals they aspire to accomplish on council are not limited to the goals of the executive slate.

Voters vote for slates largely based on their marketing strategies. In theory, the group with the best marketing campaign can win the elections. Furthermore, voters tend to choose councillors according to the slate they like the best.

Here’s the thing: the Your Concordia executive only won by just over five per cent of the vote, but the real significance of their win stems from the real-estate they banked on council. Out of 30 elected councillors with voting rights, only nine candidates from Action got seats.

The average Arts and Science councillor for Your Concordia received about 1304 votes, whereas Action’s received about 986. That’s 24 per cent more—a huge margin. Last year, the Fusion executive slate won the elections and their councillors held 26 out of 30 seats. The year before that, Vision’s councillors held 18 out of 27 seats. The winning slate has held over 90 per cent of the Arts and Science councillor seats two years in a row.

If a council hopeful doesn’t want to join a slate, their chances of getting elected are slim. This year, all three independent councillors—those who didn’t want to side with a slate—failed to get voted in. This suggests that, essentially, anyone who wants to sit on council pretty much has to pick a team.

Council hopefuls will naturally gravitate towards the slate whose political stance best suits their own. This results in a system that forces students to vote for councillors on the basis of their slate, when they should be voting for the people who fit the criteria of what they think is important.

For instance, if Marvin Coleby ran independently, maybe the fact that he is the President of the Caribbean Students’ Association would have been more visible, and the Caribbean students that wanted to be represented more effectively on council would have voted for him.

This is just one example, but Concordia has a very active student body that deserves the most effective representation.

The slate and voting system demonstrates year after year that it creates a council that’s slanted towards the political motives of the executive slate when it should be more moderate.

This concentration of power isn’t democratic. How is there going to be real discourse on issues if everyone thinks the same? And though there is reason to believe that the student body may be under-represented through council, this is no fault of the slates themselves. This is the fault of the system that slates are operating under.

A council member’s platform points shouldn’t be lost in the rubble of brand image. Ideas of a better future should be their ad copy, and true peer-to-peer interaction should be their buzz marketing.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 29, published April 5, 2011.