While some concerns about violations during this year’s Concordia Student Union elections have yet to be resolved, last week’s voter turnout suggests that the intense faceoffs between the two slates may not have been entirely negative.
With a total of 5,910 ballots cast, turnout nearly doubled compared to last year, when about 3,200 students voted. Winning slate Your Concordia pulled through with a 336-vote margin of victory over its opponent Action, a difference of a little under six percent. The difference represents a big turnaround from last year, when Fusion steamrollered opposing slate Community with 73 per cent of the votes.
Your Concordia also beat Action in most CSU council races, including a clean sweep of the arts and science seats, two of the three engineering seats and all three fine arts seats. Both their board candidates AJ West and Laura Beach were elected, as were senators Andy Filipowich, Tina Salameh and Bilal Hamideh. Action won all six JMSB council seats as well as the JMSB senate seat.
President-elect Lex Gill attributed their win to being able to aggressively reach out to students. “Our campaign got a lot of people out to vote who wouldn’t normally vote,” Gill said. “Progressive students at Concordia haven’t had a really good reason to vote in years [and] Â Loyola often gets kind of neglected in this whole process. I think we did our best to reach out to them and that mattered.”
While she had felt throughout campaigning that Your Concordia had strong support with arts and science and fine arts students, Gill was surprised to see how the tables turned in their favour as the counters began to open boxes and tally votes. “It was clear that for every 50 votes we got, [Action was] getting between 25 and 30,” she said. “It was overwhelmingly in our favour.”
During Thursday night’s ballot counting, Gill asked chief electoral officer Oliver Cohen to count the ballots from the MB building separately because of misgivings she had about Action candidates’ behaviour there. However, she said the ballots ended up being mixed in with the others because of time constraints.
Action’s presidential candidate Khalil Haddad, who described the loss as “unfortunate,” also had concerns about procedures at the polling stations.Â “One thing that was of great concern and very worrying was the fact that polling clerks had mistakenly given multiple ballots to students throughout the polling period,” he said. “We found about five ballots that had almost identical markings and were stuck together.” He added that the multiple ballots were voided when noticed.
As such, Haddad thinks there is room for improvement in the elections process, and recommended looking into online voting after having assessed “the potential security risk.”
Haddad added that although Action filed several contestations throughout the election, the CEO did not act on any of them. He pointed out his concern about post-campaigning within Your Concordia as well. “Your Concordia clearly violated rules by flyering the Loyola library and bombarding the bathroom stalls with campaign materials with their stickers and pamphlets,” he said. The slate is currently considering whether or not to file any additional contestations before the Monday deadline.
Gill said that if Your Concordia was to submit another complaint, they would “contest some of the tactics used at the MB.” However, as she pointed out, since the ballots from that building were not counted separately, there would be “no real incentive” for them to do so.
While her misgivings about the ballots from that building remain, she said, “We don’t want to push to contest it because the fact is those ballots aren’t segregated so there’s no really no way to rule anything out, and because it wasn’t specifically the business councillors who were behaving that way, we wouldn’t want to embark on a process to disqualify them.”
Haddad pointed to the slight margin of victory as evidence that Action candidates should continue to participate in Concordia’s political culture. “This is an indication that students would like to see Action take an active role next year with the goal of creating a positive and inclusive atmosphere around campus. I have been passionately involved from day one at Concordia and intend to continue that way until graduation,” he said.