News | Controversy surrounds AUS by-elections

Legitimacy of Arts and Science students’ votes questioned

The recent by-elections for an Arts representative to SSMU have been called into question following allegations that Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS) bylaws were violated.

The by-elections occurred after former Arts representative Sean Phipps resigned from his post earlier this semester. AUS Council elected President Devon LaBuik as the interim representative to SSMU on September 19 by secret ballot.

The election results released last Wednesday showed that Claire Stewart-Kanigan won the by-election with 408 votes.

The election started on October 4, when ballots were released to Arts students by email. On October 6, the online ballot was released for students enrolled in Arts and Science, despite last year’s creation of a position on SSMU Council to represent students in Arts and Science.

Arts and Science representative to SSMU Victor Lam told The Daily, “Last year there was a constitution change, so Arts and Science students are no longer eligible to run for Arts representative to SSMU.”

“The thing about this year is that during this by-election, Arts and Science students could still nominate and vote for Arts reps to SSMU although technically they are not supposed to because in the spirit of who is represented at SSMU Council…after being elected by just Arts and Science students I am the dedicated Arts and Sci Rep,” said Lam.

According to Bachelor of Arts and Science Integrative Council (BASiC) VP External Kate Sheridan, the ability of Arts and Science students to vote was due to a loophole in the AUS by-elections.

Lam also referred to the fact that ballots for Arts and Science students were released after those of Arts students.

“When the ballot got sent out to all students, Arts students for some reason got the ballot earlier than Arts-Sci students did,” said Lam.

AUS President Devon LaBuik told The Daily that after going through the by-laws and noting these discrepancies, AUS sought to make sure Arts and Science students could vote for five or six days.

BASiC sent an email to Arts and Science students immediately after their ballots were sent that stated: “while you are entitled to vote, we want to reiterate that the winner of this election is not responsible for representing you at the SSMU Legislative Council sessions.”

LaBuik explained that the AUS constitution was not changed last year to reflect the new Arts and Science seat in council because of an oversight.

“We tried to change [the by-law] during the electoral period but our constitution explicitly states that we are not allowed to make changes during the electoral period. We tried to change it and it will take place immediately after these elections,” said LaBuik.

A motion to change the by-law that allows Arts and Science students to vote was passed by AUS Council on October 3, and will be enforced following this by-election.

“This will be the last Arts rep to SSMU that Arts and Science students will be able to vote for,” read the email sent by BASiC.

Lam said that the AUS Elections Chief Returning Officer (CRO) should have “[sent] out more information to actually inform everyone through the special listserv, saying that technically students are allowed to vote but in the spirit of having created an [Arts and Science Rep] last semester through the SSMU referendum, Arts and Science students should not be voting in this election,” said Lam.

However, LaBuik told The Daily that it “was absolutely not the fault of our CRO. She was carrying out what was stipulated.”

Lam told The Daily that he is currently trying to invalidate the votes by Arts and Science students.

“Right now I’m drafting an email to ask Elections AUS to ask whether it would be possible to invalidate the Arts and Sciences votes, but I’m not entirely sure if it is allowed in the constitution or in the bylaws,” said Lam.

Lam also said he is considering the possibility of filing a Judicial Board case to invalidate the votes.

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