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ASFA to retry referendum initiative

by Gregory Todaro March 29, 2016

Councillors and executives say question on restructuring was unclear

After reports of questionable election practices during the Arts and Science Federation of Associations referendum last week, councilors decided to ask students to vote on referendum questions a second time. The decision faced vocal opposition from several councillors but was passed during a special council meeting on Friday.

The motion, which was approved in a 9-7 vote by council, cited decisions by ASFA’s chief electoral officer as a reason for “the proposal and bylaws (sic) changes be put back to ballot during the ASFA general elections so the student population can make a proper informed decision.”

Students in the Arts and Science faculty will have the chance to re-vote to restructure the organization into mainly a funding body for its Member Associations (MAs) from April 6 to 8 during ASFA’s general election.

While the original referendum failed to pass by a slim margin of 52 votes—with 329 votes against and 277 students in favour—some councillors felt that factors including the lack of a preamble to the question and the presence of promotional material at polling stations caused students to be unclear as to what they were voting for.

“I don’t believe anybody honestly in this room believes that there were no procedural issues with the way the referendum was carried out,” said Sociology and Anthropology Student Union (SASU) councillor Marcus Peters during the meeting. “Giving students another chance to make their voice heard is exactly what a democratic structure should be.”

The sentiment was echoed by Students of Philosophy Association (SOPhiA) representative Katie Nelson. “We can’t speculate on [what happened], but we can offer students a chance for a fair election—especially under these circumstances,” she said during the meeting, adding the fee levy question—which only passed by a margin of three votes—should also be placed under the microscope.

However, Concordia Undergraduate Psychology Association (CUPA) councillor Elizabeth Duong was one of several councillors who argued that ASFA’s Judicial Committee should look into the matter before asking students to vote again.

“The Judicial Committee should decide if the violations [during the referendum] affected the vote to the extent of 52 voters,” Duong said.

Political Science Student Association (PSSA) president Jason Poirier Lavoie disagreed, telling council that the Judicial Committee doesn’t have authority to rule in this case. “This isn’t a judicial concern. Politically, we should seek a strong response from the students that clearly favours one side or the other and making sure they’re informed when they do so.”

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