News  Concordia elections marred by controversy

Students allege that campaign violations were ignored, campus media was vandalized

Lex Gill led her slate, Your Concordia, to victory in the Concordia Student Union (CSU) elections for the 2011-12 school year amidst allegations of campaign violations and targeted vandalism by the opposing slate.

Gill won by a margin of 350 votes. Your Concordia won the majority of seats on council, and the student seat on the Board of Governors. The opposing slate, Action, took all six seats from the John Molson School of Business. Precise numbers are not yet available, but Concordia’s The Link reported that voter turnout was on pace to set record-high voting levels.

However, since voting closed some students have come forward stating that they received multiple ballots when voting.

The Link published an email sent to them by student Mihai Cristea on Thursday, explaining how she had been supplied with multiple ballots. Unlike McGill, the CSU conducts elections with physical ballots and in-person voting Cristea also sent the email to the CSU’s Chief Electoral Officer Oliver Cohen, the presidential candidates for Your Concordia and Action, and other campus media outlets.

“When I voted [on Wednesday], after having signed in, I was given ten ballots–one for Arts and Science Senate candidates, one for Arts and Science Council candidates, [but] two for Board of Governors candidates, two for CSU executive slates, two for the first set of referendum questions, and two for the second set of referendum questions,” wrote Cristea.

In the days leading up to the vote, the election grew increasingly controversial. In fact, the final day of campaigning was cut six hours short amidst allegations of voter intimidation, campaign violations, and vandalism against campus media.

“Up until about a week ago the campaigning was competitive but not malicious, and those things changed very quickly,” said Gill. “I think that when the other team realized there was a chance of us winning, tactics got a lot dirtier. There were rumors being spread that were patently untrue, accusations about me getting arrested. Never was, never been arrested.”

There were reports from students who claimed they saw members of Action campaigning within twenty feet of polling stations – a practice that is a campaign violation.

Campus media have also been the target of vandalism during the campaign. Concordia University Television (CUTV) had two televisions damaged – one when a magnet destroyed the screen, and the other when a wire was torn out and frayed.

CUTV station manager Laura Kneale believes the vandalism was politically motivated.

“A lot of people have come to talk to us about these things, and a lot of them have alluded to a link with the political situation, and we definitely think there would be a link between these two things just because of how hostile the elections have been. But in terms of a specific person I really couldn’t say,” she said.

Gill believes that The Link was targeted specifically because she is in a relationship with former editor-in-chief Justin Giovannetti. While she acknowledged that it was unfortunate that the newspaper was targeted, she maintained that Giovannetti has never been involved with any of the newspaper’s coverage of her campaign.

“I guarantee that if I weren’t a women nothing like that would have ever happened. But there is this assumption that the only reason that I could possibly be politically influential is because I am sleeping with a journalist, and not because I have political ideas of my own,” she said.

Before the vote was counted Thursday, Cohen said he was not overly concerned with any of the conflicts, attributing them to the nature of the political arena.

“I can assure you that there are no electoral violations, everything is being managed accordingly. Whatever issues do come up between the parties, obviously we deal with that between those parties and make sure that whatever that issue is, is resolved,” he said.

“In regards to the safekeeping of the ballot and the ballot boxes, we take the highest security measures probably in North America,” he added.