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External observers look on

by Archives April 3, 2002

The CSU’s Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Stephan Herman invited a government watchdog agency to observe the CSU elections as a means to ensure that the democratic process was unimpeded.
A group known as the Independent Election Observers (IEO) was on hand last week, working in tandem with Concordia officials as well as offering advice and instructions on proper etiquette and electoral procedures.
Herman, 27, has been CEO for one month and was pleased to have the IEO’s expertise during the election. “They’ve told us that this is one of the best student-run elections they’ve ever seen,” he said.
The IEO are an official government body attached to the Montreal bureau of the Director Generale des Elections du Quebec, the agency that monitors regional elections (the provincial equivalent of Concordia’s CEO office). The main function of the IEO is to uphold the democratic process and see that it runs smoothly and without obstruction. While it holds no legal authority over Concordia’s elections, Herman said he would consider and act on their advice, if it proves applicable.
“They’re not here to arbitrate disputes,” said Herman, “they’re not here to punish: they’re here to watch.”
Herman said his decision to invite the IEO is rather unusual. Though at times involved in high school elections, the IEO do not normally participate in CEGEP or university elections. The highly-publicized controversy surrounding last November’s byelection at Concordia might suggest a reason for their presence, but Herman insists he would have asked the IEO to observe anyway, regardless of any perceived corruption at the official level.
He said that were he a CEO at any other university, he would still ask the IEO to be present. “To me, the legitimacy of an election and of democracy is a priority, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing.”
There were two observers from the Montreal bureau during the polling period and four during ballot counting. Concordia students may have even seen some of them: they floated between campuses and polling stations, the idea being that if no one from the university knew of their schedule, the more accurate a picture the observers would garner of Concordia’s election behaviour.
The main elements being observed were professionalism of the university staff, ballot delivery, voting security and impartiality of staff.
“We’ve taken extraordinary steps this year,” said Herman, “and so far they report nothing amiss.”
With the elections over, the next step is for the IEO to draft a final report for submission to the Director Generale des Election du Quebec and to Herman, who will in turn, hand in their respective reports to the CSU.

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