While participation has consistently been an issue during ASFA elections, normally it has been at the hands of the voters. This year, only 12 students entered their candidacy for ASFA’s spring election, a decrease of nearly 60 per cent from 2010. As a result, three of seven candidates for the association’s executive will be running unopposed, including presidential candidate Alex Gordon.
ASFA’s chief electoral officer Nick Cuillerier said the low number of applications could be the result of three factors. “The first obviously is that this is the first year we’re running without team slates,” he said. “It’s tough to say whether that’s the particular reason or not, however there’s no doubt that it’s more difficult to formulate a full [executive] when you don’t have teams involved and it’s all individuals. It may have discouraged some individuals from running.”
The other two factors he suggested were the general political climate at Concordia and the CSU’s dominant presence on the student political spectrum.
In addition to the president, VP social and VP externals will go uncontested. No candidate applied for VP communication and only two candidates applied for the three independent councillor positions, so both of these openings will need to be filled in a byelection next fall.
Gordon expressed a similar belief in the first explanation, that the lack of slates likely played a role in how few candidates there are.
“I definitely think the lack of slates plays a role because now there’s not somebody who can form a team and recruit people and, you know, find a good synergy of people to make a team,” he said. “If there’s no one there to organize you it’s tougher to get your foot in the door.”
Another possible side-effect of having no slates could be a decreased turnout Cuillerier acknowledged. “Obviously the lower amount of candidates makes it more of a challenge to get voter turnout because it’s more difficult to get the word out about the elections itself,” he said. But the CEO did add that he has been using various “creative methods’ to try and improve turnout, including increased advertising, social media and new executive summaries which inform students about each candidates and will be available both on ASFA’s website and at polling tables. “I’m optimistic that we can get voter turnout and I think the executive summary should help in that regard,” he said.
According to Cuillerier, the removal of slates took place last year following a recommendation by Colby Briggs, ASFA’s CEO at the time. The change was passed with councillors hoping it would help clean up the “dirty politics’ that had plagued the organization’s elections.
There has already been one sanction handed out less than a week into this year’s campaign period. Last Sunday, VP finance candidate Pier-Luc Therrien Peloquin notified all members of the ASFA council meeting mailing list that he would be unable to attend this week’s meeting because, as an executive candidate, he was required to take a leave of absence. Under Annex A of ASFA’s bylaws this constitutes an illegal use of “insider exploitation’ by using the mailing list, a tool not available to all candidates, to spread word of his candidacy. He will be unable to participate in any form of campaigning for three days this week starting today, bar a decision by ASFA’s judicial committee to overturn this sanction.
Peloquin can contest the decision but he said that, despite the fact that the violation was unintentional, he will not be doing so. “Denying would be lying and it’s not what I stand for,” he wrote in an email. “The CEO is doing his job and I will do mine by abiding the rules set.”
A second contestation was filed in regards to poster plagiarism and this has been sent directly to the JC to be ruled on prior to Thursday’s ASFA council meeting.
Still, this year’s elections have not come close to the contestations and sanctions that characterized the 2010 ASFA elections, some of which ultimately led to the reversal of electoral victories for two candidates.
This year, most candidates have thus far shown a clear concern for following the rules and Cuillerier said he received 75 emails concerning electoral regulations within the first three hours of the campaign period.
When rules are broken, Cuillerier says he will be firm and quick to hold the guilty parties accountable. “I’m not willing to disregard small violations for the sake of trying to keep it clean and out of the papers,” he said. “It’s up to the candidates to follow the rules and if they step out of line then it’s my job to enforce them.”