The continuation of UTSU’s Special General Meeting saw a motion recommending online voting to be implemented in time for the UTSU elections narrowly approved by a vote of 575–567.
The UTSU Board of Directors met Wednesday evening to approve electoral policy recommended by the Elections and Referenda Committee, the body charged with revising and making changes to the Election Procedure Code, in preparation for the upcoming executive and Board of Directors elections. The electoral policy was approved without online voting, on which the student body had voted on Tuesday. The motion to implement online voting and consider the other parts of the declaration was a directive-based, non-binding motion.
The second part of the SGM was held on Tuesday, February 12, in the Earth Sciences Building. It only went through one motion—the one calling for electoral reform. This motion was largely inspired by “The Non-Partisan Declaration on UTSU Electoral Reform”, a document drafted anonymously by UTSU’s opposition that outlined several recommendations, including online voting.
The meeting was held simultaneously at both the St. George and Mississauga campuses, with UTM students listening, speaking, and voting via Skype.
“Online voting is neither a new idea, nor is it an idea which can’t be implemented in time for this year’s elections. It definitely can,” said Sam Greene at the meeting. Greene went on to say that the only reason UTSU won’t set up voting at voting.utoronto.ca is that they think the university is in a conflict of interest about the administration of the elections. “The implicit claim being made there is that the university will rig the outcome of the UTSU elections, which is a patently ridiculous allegation and, I think, frankly totally disrespectful to the university community as a whole. If that’s the only defence that they have against implementing online voting tomorrow […] that should not merit any consideration whatsoever.”
When the floor went to those opposed to the motion, they said the Elections and Referenda Committee was deep in consideration of online voting, trying to determine whether the system is inherently secure. They cited other universities whose online voting systems had suffered security breaches. In reply, those in favour said that these specific cases are not enough to draw conclusions about the security of U of T’s online voting system, which is used for voting in many elections at the university.
Quorum (the minimum number of voting members needed to proceed with the meeting) was lost after the vote on electoral reform. The remaining motions on mental health and a transit strategy were not voted on.
The student body voted in favour of recommending electoral reform, but it was clear by the following afternoon that no such reform would be adopted this year for the UTSU elections. The results of Tuesday’s meeting came too late to revise the Election Procedures Code. According to UTSU bylaws, February 9 was the last day to propose amendments to the Election Procedure Code and have them ratified by the UTSU Board of Directors before the nominations period opened on February 14.
At the UTSU Board of Directors meeting on Wednesday afternoon, the Elections and Referenda Committee presented the Board with a legal report documenting the recent history of the UTSU’s electoral process and recommending various reforms.
Any changes must be ratified by the UTSU Board of Directors, and the Board is not required to heed any of the recommendations of the report. UTSU’s president, Shaun Shepherd, indicated on Tuesday that he would speak in favour of online voting at the board meeting, but did not attend, according to The Varsity.
Trinity College, the Engineering Society, and St. Michael’s College have announced plans to defederate from the union, citing concerns about the union’s failure to implement the reforms.