Read our previous coverage of the invalidation of the presidential election results here.
On April 2, Elections SSMU Chief Electoral Officer Ben Fung and Deputy Electoral Officer David Koots held a question-and-answer period to address students’ concerns regarding the invalidation of SSMU presidential election results. Because of campaign violations, Elections SSMU disqualified former winner Tariq Khan on April 1, making runner-up Courtney Ayukawa the new president-elect.
While Elections SSMU alluded to the types of infractions committed by Khan in the original email announcement, specific information regarding the infractions has not been released. Fung explained that Elections SSMU is bound by confidentiality rules, some of which are ingrained in Quebec law. However, when asked about the specifics of these rules, Fung answered that they are applied on “a case-by-case basis.”
When asked to provide a timeline of when appropriate information would be released, neither Fung nor Koots were able to answer fully. Both said that the timing was dependent on whether and when involved parties consented to disclose certain details.
“This is a slow, ongoing process,” Koots said. “I can’t promise [full disclosure of the details of the investigation] one way or another.”
Fung told The Daily on April 1 that there are five days available to appeal the invalidation. As the “most qualified” person to make the appeal, Khan was given a 13-page report detailing the reasoning behind Elections SSMU’s decision, Fung said at the question-and-answer period.
Fung encouraged students who wish to appeal the decision to take their complaints to SSMU’s Judicial Board, but added that additional information is still relevant to Elections SSMU. “If we receive considerable information, and review our decision, and find that the decision was misinformed or that the decision was incorrect, then Elections SSMU can overturn the decision,” Fung said.
When asked whether there would be time to call another election in the case of a successful appeal, Fung answered, “If a re-election is to happen, a lot of the bylaws would have to change [first].”
One student who attended the session asked whether Ayukawa could simply act as an officer of SSMU during the summer, with an election held in the Fall semester. Fung replied that this course of action was not possible.
“There are a lot of great ideas that have come forward that we really wish we could do, but because we’re a corporation, […] we have to follow [certain rules],” he said. “In that situation, when someone’s been elected or declared the successful candidate, then they can only be removed from office through a very specific process. […] We can’t define exceptional rules when the guidelines are already stated […] in the bylaws.”
Multiple students who attended the question-and-answer session questioned the political motivations behind the investigation and subsequent invalidation of the results. One student cited a statement made by incoming VP Finance and Operations Kathleen Bradley where she said, “People just really wanted to see the most qualified candidate win.” Bradley had launched a Judicial Board complaint against Elections SSMU regarding the initial results of the presidential election, but dropped it following the invalidation.
Fung maintained that any biases are factored into the decision-making process. “When we do have to make a decision, obviously it’s a comprehensive judgement that includes the bias that has been presented,” he stated.
Fung also emphasized that the Elections SSMU investigation began before the Judicial Board case, and “was in no way prompted” by it.
In response to a question about the amount of information that the newly elected SSMU executive is privy to, Fung said, “We haven’t sought out any individuals and given them information unless they’re directly involved in the situation. And even if they’re directly involved in the situation, we don’t give out all of the details. The investigative process is one that is completely independently done by Elections SSMU.”
Fung noted that the implementation of a preferential ballot voting system for future elections, in which candidates are ranked, has support among some SSMU councillors.
Fung emphasized that, as a consultative body, Elections SSMU is not able to decide which bylaws should be changed. Nevertheless, the committee will be making a presentation at the next SSMU Council meeting on April 10 with suggestions for changes.