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Alleged electoral violations sent to judicial committee

by The Concordian October 15, 2011
Alleged violations of the Arts and Science Federation of Associations’ electoral rules by the chief electoral officer have caused him to refer the case to ASFA’s judicial committee.
ASFA’s VP internal Schubert Laforest confirmed on Saturday that at least one poll clerk in the recent ASFA by-election, Nicole Devlin, was ineligible to perform her duties due to the fact that she is a former ASFA VP internal. According to the federation’s Annex A, all current and former ASFA executives are barred from acting as electoral officers.
The issue of having Devlin as a polling officer was brought up very recently by Laforest to CEO Marvin Cidamon, who referred the matter to ASFA’s judicial committee.
“I don’t know what happened exactly, it was a huge oversight by everyone,” said Laforest. “We’re going to send this on to JC and see what they say. The Annex doesn’t actually say what happens when these kinds of violations take place.”
Laforest said he didn’t know if this type of violation is grounds for the by-elections, which were held on Oct. 12 and 13, to be declared invalid, stating that he will wait to hear the JC’s findings. The committee must meet within three business days of receiving a contestation.
Cidamon, who was responsible for the hiring of all electoral officers, said he hired Devlin because of her expertise as a former ASFA VP internal.
“I feel it would be almost crazy if I didn’t hire her. If anyone knows how to run an election, it’s her,” he said, claiming that members of the judicial committee were well aware of Devlin’s hiring, but said nothing at the time. Cidamon said the matter was only referred to the JC after concerns were expressed to the ASFA executive immediately following the by-election.
The version of Annex A currently posted on ASFA’s website is outdated, stemming from council’s December meeting. Asked whether Cidamon had consulted this document rather than the updated version, which was approved in April, Laforest confirmed that he had indeed gone over the most recent version of the Annex with Cidamon.
Another violation committed early on during the by-election by Cidamon was the failure to have executive summaries at each polling station. These short paragraphs describe each candidate running for office, and were ordered by the previous ASFA council to be present at each polling station. Laforest said that as soon as he noticed the executive summaries were missing on the first day of polling, he notified Cidamon, who immediately rectified the situation.
Former ASFA CEO Nicolas Cuillerier said he remained concerned over the supposed violations, but said he will also wait until after the JC has ruled on this matter before he draws any conclusions.
“Annex A is a great guide on how to run an election. It is only 10 pages long. But I will defer to the JC on how to proceed with this matter,” he said. “These violations are quite serious. We have to question what kind of precedent we are setting.”
According to Annex A, the CEO must be appointed by ASFA council, even though this has yet to actually happen. At its September meeting, council mandated the internal and administration committee to select a CEO on an interim basis until this selection could be ratified at the October council meeting.
The committee originally selected Paul Goubko, also ineligible to act as CEO because he is a former MA executive and ASFA councillor. Upon realizing this, the committee soon replaced Goubko with Cidamon, a former MA CEO. But the decision was never ratified at the October council meeting as originally planned, with Laforest explaining that the vote was postponed because the meeting was taking place at Loyola while Cidamon was still at the downtown campus counting ballots.
“We felt he had to be at the meeting,” said Laforest. “But technically he is still a legitimate CEO. The idea is that between council meetings, oversight committees have the power of council. Our decision just has to be re-approved by council.”
Asked whether his committee was now reconsidering its decision to hire Cidamon given the alleged violations, Laforest said the decision to take Cidamon on as a permanent CEO now lies with council, which will likely vote on the CEO position at its November meeting. Cidamon will also have to present his CEO report at that same meeting.
There were also some other stipulations in Annex A that may or may not have been respected, depending on interpretation. For instance, the document indicates that the polling period must run over three consecutive days. The recent by-election only ran for two days.
“We struggled with that one a lot. The three consecutive days applies to general elections, but it doesn’t explicitly say by-elections,” said Laforest. He said this is something he is hoping to clear up this year.
“I will be meeting with the administration and internal committee as well as policy review to go over and revise the electoral proceedings of ASFA, from hiring electoral officers to the actual administering of the election,” said Laforest. “ASFA is getting bigger and becoming more complex,  so we need to stop relying on convention and have tighter, more explicit, legislation.”
Another stipulation in the Annex says that the CEO must announce the results of the election within 24 hours of the closing of the polls, although it doesn’t specifically say how the results must be announced.
In Cidamon’s case, Laforest said he “understood” that the CEO had emailed the candidates and student media with the results, but was unsure if the results had actually been posted by the CEO to a platform accessible to the general public.
“We kind of let him do his own thing. We wanted to respect his chronology and let him count all the ballots,” said Laforest.
Cidamon explained on Saturday evening that he texted the candidates with the results, and later emailed them. He also emailed the results to members of the student press, but only after this information had been requested.
“To be honest, I wouldn’t have even given you guys the results if you hadn’t asked,” said Cidamon.
Contacted on Friday, ASFA president Alex Gordon said he “had taken a step back from the elections,” allowing Cidamon, Laforest, and the polling officers to run the by-election.
“As far as the validity of the process, we try to follow by the book as much as possible. If there were any violations or problems, we would have to look at them as an executive. The proper venue might be the JC,” said Gordon. “But I don’t think these violations are on the same level of seriousness as a candidate’s violations.”
As it stands, the winners of the by-election are Alexis Suzuki for VP communications and promotions, Paul Jerajian for VP external and sustainability, and Yasmeen Zahar for independent councillor.

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