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Editorial – ASFA elections have become a joke

by The Concordian February 28, 2012

What exactly is going on with the Arts and Science Federation of Associations’ elections? The general elections that were supposed to be held from Feb. 15 to 17, then pushed to Feb. 29, and now pushed again (for the final time?) to March 5, have only succeeded in further confusing arts and science students about their own electoral process.

Given the fact that ASFA also had a total electoral meltdown during its byelection last fall, it has become clear that concrete changes need to be brought to the way the federation runs its elections.

Upon Chris Webster’s resignation as chief electoral officer just hours before polling began on Feb. 15, the ASFA executive should have immediately taken action to fill his position, thereby allowing the elections to resume as soon as possible.

Instead, the executive scrambled to run the show themselves. When they failed to do that, they announced, on the same day that polling was set to end, that the elections would be postponed until Feb. 29 due to “procedural complications.” Not only that, but ASFA declared that all electoral ballots would be voided — so much for the countless arts and science students who actually took the time to exercise a right they’re so often criticized for not doing. Want to bet they’ll be interested in voting again in the March 5 election?

And how exactly was the executive planning on getting the word out in the first place that the elections had been postponed? They never modified their website, nor their Facebook account, and the only time ASFA took to Twitter during the electoral catastrophe was to tweet about ASFA’s New York trip. While members of the student press were reporting on the breakdown throughout spring break, particularly The Concordian, which offered comprehensive coverage of the election controversy online, ASFA remained surprisingly silent on its own platforms.

It’s safe to say that ASFA is not winning any brownie points at the moment, and is certainly not inspiring any confidence among its 14,000 members.

ASFA has already taken a lot of heat for standing idly by, along with its judicial committee, while former CEO Marvin Cidamon committed several electoral violations during last October’s byelection, violations that eventually lead to his resignation just before council sacked him. One of the more notable blunders Cidamon committed was failing to alert the media about the byelection’s victors, telling The Concordian at the time that “had you not asked me, I would have never given you the results.”

When ASFA President Alex Gordon declared that they would learn from their mistakes in October, his statement seemed almost believable. Council eventually hired a new CEO, Christopher Webster, in December, who Gordon described at the time as being very qualified for the job, and who was seen as the person to set things straight when it came to elections.

However, Webster also showed failings in terms of his job capabilities early on, allowing a candidate to switch positions after the announcement of the candidacies — a decision eventually overturned by the judicial committee — and failing to answer questions about the electoral process from the student press. His resignation was hardly surprising.

ASFA is now left with a huge question: What can it do to actually run smooth, transparent elections? It has already failed to do that twice, and it seems unlikely that it will be able to do this in the near future. Already, Gordon has gone on record saying that although holding the elections on March 5 goes against ASFA’s own bylaws, because they will be held at the same time as the Concordia Student Union campaign period, it’s become “necessary” to break the bylaws. One can only imagine the backlash such a decision will ignite.

It’s understandable that ASFA wants to elect its new executive as soon as possible so that they can start to get to work on projects for next year. But rapidity should not be prioritized over fairness and the rules. ASFA needs to get a new CEO and needs to hold their elections in a period when they are actually allowed to so.

Ultimately, the federation needs to learn its own rules. Had it done so in the past, and helped its CEOs to understand the regulations as well, ASFA would not be in this mess in the first place.

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