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Pennies push the popular vote

by The Concordian October 7, 2014
Pennies push the popular vote

Money may buy you votes, but it shouldn’t buy you an election

Buying votes is unacceptable at any level. You’d think it would require tact, or at the very least, deep pockets. But if you’re trying it with a Concordia organization, it might be easier – and cheaper – than you think.

It’s a harsh lesson that Queer Concordia had to learn on Friday, Sept. 26. That evening, QC held their Annual General Meeting, which serves as the electoral debate for the Board of Directors, in addition to the vote and the announcement of the results. At the meeting, one candidate arrived with a group of people, whom he had rallied in an attempt to sway the vote in his favour.

“He had a bunch of friends come in,” explained Caitlin O’Neill, financial co-ordinator for Queer Concordia. “He explicitly was like: ‘I’m bringing my posse’ and ‘look at all the people I brought.’”

O’Neill, who was handing out the ballots at the time, overheard the man encouraging the others to vote along with his choices.

“He filled out his ballot as soon as he got it, before hearing the speeches or anything,” said O’Neill. “He was like: ‘Oh, just copy my ballot’ – I don’t know how many actually did that or not. When I was giving them their ballots, I said, ‘Please wait until after the speeches.’”

When asked, O’Neill estimated that about a dozen people arrived with the candidate – none of whom, including the candidate himself, were Concordia students.

Only constituents of Queer Concordia are eligible to vote in their annual election. All Concordia students are automatically constituents, due to their payment of the fee levy. However, a non-student may also become a constituent for the year by paying the equivalent of the fee levy, which is 60 cents.

“There are certain positions [non-students] can run for if they opt-in to the group,” explained O’Neill. “There are four positions on the board that they are not eligible to run for if they are not a Concordia student.”

However, that leaves the other four positions – half of the board – open to non-Concordia students, including the position the candidate was running for. O’Neill and Samantha Bell-Moar, communicators co-ordinator, both confirmed that the man had never attended a Queer Concordia event prior to the AGM.

The ballots completed by the man’s associates were invalidated, but only by technicality, due to them handing the ballots to a third party, the candidate, instead of to the organizers directly.

Neither O’Neill nor Bell-Moar could confirm that a change of policy would take place following this incident, but agreed it was something they would discuss in the future.

This is the very definition of a close call. If all it takes to win a Concordia organization’s election is 60 cents and a bunch of friends, then there is a critical failure in our system. Elections — even for student organizations — should be based off platform and merit, not pennies and popularity.

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