Students United unofficially wins the election after they successfully appealed demerit points. Photo Courtesy UTM United

After two weeks of campaigning for the UTMSU spring elections, a 30% voter turnout has set a new record. Voting took place last week on March 16, 17 and 18 and unofficial results have been released. By the end of the voting period, the Yellow team unofficially gained the most votes as well as the most demerit points, with all candidates facing disqualification.

After making an appeal to the Elections and Referenda committee, Vickita Bhatt, the presidential candidate for Students United, had her 62 demerit points reduced by more than half to 30 demerit points, keeping her results eligible for ratification. Henry Ssali, presidential candidate for UTM Renew, has had 36 demerit points reduced by 10 down to 26 points.

Demerit points are issued to candidates who violate the Elections and Procedure code during the campaign period by engaging in slander, pre-campaigning, abuse of union resources and other acts that violate the Elections and Procedure code.

Representatives for the Students United team and candidates of UTM Renew had a chance to appeal the rulings of the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Kenny Lee to the Elections and Referenda committee, which can overturn rulings made by the CRO.

According to Lee, candidates will have another opportunity to further appeal rulings to the Elections and Referenda Appeals committee. The first round of appeals were presented to UTMSU VP internal and services Carole Au Yeung, president Joey Santiago and board members Hibba Amin, with nonvoting members Lee and the elections DRO Steffi Huynh, who had their original rulings retracted.

The official appeals committee has yet to be approved by the board of directors and according to the elections and referenda committee this item will be presented at this Thursday’s board of directors meeting.

The Elections and procedure code states that 35 demerit points is the maximum any executive candidate can reach (the maximum for VP part-time affair is 30 demerit points). An unprecedented amount of complaints were filed in this year’s elections. These resulted in the entire yellow team facing disqualification.

As specified in the Elections Procedure code, the membership of the appeals committee must include one staff or executive member from the Association of Graduate Students, one staff or executive member from either UTMAC or Residence Council, one staff or executive member of a member Local of the Canadian Federation of Students’ in the Greater Toronto Area and the Chair of the Elections Committee serves as a non-voting member.

The UTMSU board, however, has not approved the membership of the committee. According to the Elections Procedure Code, “The Elections and Referenda Appeals Committee must be appointed by the Elections and Referenda Committee before the opening of the nomination period.”
Thus, the results of the spring elections remain unofficial (candidates are not deemed elected until they have been ratified by the Union’s Board at the meeting following the election results, with the condition that there is no outstanding appeal involving the candidate).

The Elections and Referenda committee has not provided any minutes to confirm appointing members to the appeals committee before a nomination period. The UTMSU website does not provide updated meeting minutes after January 2010.

Despite results being unofficial and still pending approval of the UTMSU board of directors, presidential candidate Vickita Bhatt sent out a Facebook message to members of her group “Vote Students United” stating “All the candidates from Students United won the positions they were running for!!!” Bhatt thanked students for participating in the highest voter turnout in Ontario.

No date has been set for the ratification meeting of the UTMSU Spring Elections.