Only a few hours into the voting period for the 2020 University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) elections, the General Council has called them off. The council ruled that the elections are illegitimate in a meeting on March 9 due to bylaw violations in the elections code.
The elections cycle will begin again with a new timeline, starting with a nomination period, though none of it has been finalized yet, according to Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Amin Kamaleddin. He wrote to The Varsity in an earlier statement that he and the Elections Committee had not been informed of the context of the meeting, and as such had continued with the elections until they were called off.
During a February meeting of council, disagreements over the ballot format and a vote to change the elections code led the council to suspend its own bylaws, which require a two-week notification to the membership on changes to the election. As pointed out by Chair of the Legal Ad-Hoc Committee Branden Rizzuto, the actions of the meeting made the elections susceptible to an appeal.
At the March 9 meeting of the council, directors brought up numerous violations in the elections code of UTGSU bylaws, including not using a ranked ballot system, not having physical polling stations, and extending the voting period longer than is permitted in the bylaws.
At the meeting, Kamaleddin claimed that the elections committee based their elections code on previous years, which may have also violated UTGSU bylaws. Further, Kamaleddin said the committee did not have enough time to write a “proper elections code,” as this topic was not reached at the Annual General Meeting.
With the elections now restarted, there is a risk that the UTGSU could be without an executive by the May 1 deadline, endangering the funding that the UTGSU gets from the university. In addition, the new elections would take place during the April exam period, which could elicit a lower voter turnout. In terms of the budget, the restarted elections could mean more expenses for the UTGSU.
The now-cancelled election had 17 candidates in the running, with an empty race for finance commissioner and an uncontested external commissioner candidate.