In an unexpected turn of events, all members of the 1UofT slate of candidates for last week’s University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU) executive elections have been disqualified following a series of recent decisions by the union’s Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC) and the election’s chief returning officer (CRO). As a result, the lone 1UofT candidate to have won election last week, vice president, internal & services elect, Carina Zhang, will be forced to relinquish her victory.
The UTSU’s Elections and Procedures Code (EPC) outlines appropriate campaigning behaviour for candidates. Demerit points are issued to candidates in cases when they have violated the EPC to a maximum of 35 points, resulting in disqualification. At the conclusion of the elections, members of 1UofT had between 22 and 28 demerit points.
In a series of recent decisions, the union’s Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC) and the election’s chief returning officer (CRO) issued a combined total of 196 new demerit points to the slate, bringing their individual totals to well over 35.
After the ERC received appeals on an earlier CRO ruling that gave two demerit points to the 1UofT slate for non-English online campaign material without an English translation, the committee repealed the ruling and increased the number of demerit points for this incident to 15 for each slate member.
The ERC also revisited another previous CRO ruling that issued three demerit points for the 1UofT slate concerning non-English campaign materials. The ruling concerned untranslated campaign material disseminated by vice-president, internal & services candidate Carina Zhang on the Chinese social networking website WeChat. The committee upgraded the demerit points to six for the slate, with the exception of Zhang, who received 10 points. Zhang was the sole victor from 1UofT.
In addition, vice-president, external candidate Andre Fast, and vice-president, university affairs candidate Andy Edem previously received three demerit points for allegedly distributing campaign material without the CRO’s stamp. The ERC extended the three points to the rest of the slate.
The CRO also made three new rulings. In one ruling, the CRO investigated allegations that 1UofT received “Benefits Acquired by Virtue of Office,” which would concern the use of a space not normally available to any UTSU member for campaign purposes and violate the EPC. There were allegations that 1UofT used the offices of the Afghan Students’ Association, of which presidential candidate Madina Siddiqui is the president of. Five demerit points were assigned to every member of the slate, with the exception of Siddiqui, who received 11.
Another ruling concerned UTMSU president Uranranebi Agbeyegbe’s involvement with 1UofT’s campaign. It was alledged that Agbeyegbe violate the EPC as he did not take an unpaid leave of absence from his position in order to campaign. However, the CRO ruled that he Agbeyegbe did not violate the EPC, as he simply sat on the UTSU Executive Committee as a designate and was not paid by the union.
The CRO also issued four demerit points to the slate as a result of mass text messages on behalf of 1UofT sent by UTMSU vice-president, university affairs & academic Nour Alideeb, who is also the UTMSU president elect. One student, Sundas Malik, who applied for the position of vice president, campus life at the UTSMU received a text from Alideeb. It is alleged that Alideeb could have only received Malik’s number through the UTMSU’s database, which would violate the EPC’s policy against “benefits acquired by virtue of office.”
ERC chair Vere Marie Khan confirmed with The Varsity that the rulings would mean that Hello UofT candidate Mathias Memmel would be elected for the position of vice-presdient, internal & services and that the second choice votes of those who ranked the disqualified candidates as their first choice would not be redistributed to the other candidates.
The rulings are still subject to change. Khan noted that, “there’s still going to be appeals happening tomorrow as well.”
Siddiqui did not immediately return The Varsity’s requests for comment.
The results are scheduled to be ratified at a general meeting on April 20 at Room 1190 in the Bahen Centre.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated from a previous version to reflect further decisions resulting in demerits.