The results of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations elections were released the Thursday before reading week and, while voter turnout decreased from a year earlier, there are many positives to be found, according to chief electoral officer Nick Cuillerier.
This year, the highest vote tally reached 888 according to the preliminary count, a decrease of approximately 33 per cent from last year which saw 1,317 students vote in the general elections. This year’s turnout represents roughly six per cent of the electorate and, while he was hoping for 10 per cent, Cuillerier said the smaller number of candidates, 12 to last year’s 28, should be taken into consideration when looking at the numbers.
“When you look at the amount of candidates running compared to last year, you’d think that we would have a lower voter turnout than actually occurred,” he said, explaining that each candidate’s campaign plays a big role in attracting voters.
The quorum of 375 voters, equivalent to 2.5 per cent of ASFA students, was also met on the first day, Cuillerier said, adding: “The votes per candidate were [almost] double what they were last year. So I think that’s an encouraging sign.”
This year two candidates received more than 600 votes, and a third was only 11 votes away from that number. In contrast, only two candidates surpassed 400 votes in 2010, but in those contests all votes were split between at least three candidates.
One of the other major positives the CEO has taken from the election period is the massive 90 per cent decrease in contestations, from 80 in 2010 to only four this year, only two of which resulted in sanctions. This is something Cuillerier credits to the removal of slates. “I was rather impressed with the candidate behaviour,” he said. “They filed contestations when they felt something was wrong, and sometimes indeed things were wrong. But in general the ‘individual slate system’ definitely removed a lot of the animosity that did occur last year in the elections.”
On that note, he also added that he believed this group of candidates was “focused on their own campaigns and not destroying other campaigns.”
More good signs to be found in this campaign according to Cuillerier were both the success of the Vanier Library lobby as a new polling station and the success of the executive summaries.
The VL lobby on the Loyola campus was the second most popular voting location out of the five ASFA set up this year, a 300 per cent increase compared to the votes garnered last year at the poll’s former location in the Administration building. “On the first day and halfway through the second day it was actually outpacing the Hall lobby which is the most popular voting station,” Cuillerier said.
As for the executive summaries, 75 per cent of voters at Loyola consulted the short candidate profiles, as did 40 per cent downtown, according to polling clerk tabulation. This amounted to approximately 500 people referring to the document at polling stations according to Cuillerier.
“The executive summary was by far one of the biggest successes in this election,” he said. “There was a lot of good feedback on it. I had a lot of people who came to the polling station and voted because they had those summaries there and they would have walked away if we didn’t have them.”
At the next ASFA council meeting, Cuillerier will be presenting his report on the elections. He said he will focus on three areas of possible improvement: The first will be a re-examination of the slate system, on which he will offer a recommendation as to how the lack of slates worked out; secondly, he will be advising the organization to adopt a social media policy into their annexes since “it’s not clear enough as to what candidates can and cannot do and this really hinders them in being creative [online].” Lastly, he will be examining “how to increase student participation while maintaining fairness.”
While voting totals didn’t turn out the way he hoped, and he would have liked to have seen more candidates, with all the changes made this past year Cuillerier said that they did achieve progress. “These are things that can continually be improved,” he explained. “The ultimate goal here is to get the average student interested in the voting process and I felt we started that foundation really solidly for years to come with this election.”