Chief Returning Officer rules on social media campaigning, and allows executives running to continue working on essential duties
Politics is considered a dirty word for good reason. But this year’s Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Charles Wilson aims to ensure the Student Association’s (SA) general election is a relatively clean affair.
With a significant portion of campaigning happening online, Wilson’s March 17 ruling on social media outlined expectations for candidates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
In this election, candidates publishing “sexist, homophobic or otherwise unacceptable posts,” or sending direct messages to voters on social media will be docked 10 demerit points.
In 2013, a candidate in the SA election was disqualified for making a racist slur on Facebook after The Dialog reported on it. The CRO at the time, Evan Murray, ruled that it was major infraction and that it was serious enough to warrant disqualification.
Under the bylaws of the SA, which funds The Dialog, executives candidates are disqualified if they get 35 demerit points. Other candidates are disqualified from the election if they get 20 demerit points.
“People get passionate about who they are, what they’re running for and why they’re running for it, and that’s healthy; that’s healthy for the organization, that’s healthy for the candidates too,” said Wilson.
Passion might become an issue, however if candidates attack each other online which, Wilson said, can reflect poorly on the candidate, the SA and the whole election.
“That’s really what we’re guarding against, ensuring that the dialogue for the election is good, clean and proper.”
The March 17 ruling also ensured that if the slates with the same name run year after year, they must dissolve their web presence and start building it again from scratch.
In the ruling, Wilson wrote that a slate’s continued web presence might “confuse the electorate” in situations where a candidate is no longer part of a slate but remains in old photos.
In this election, Sheldon Mortimore is representing V3: Values, Voices and Virtue and going against Act Now’s Alex Stewart in the director of equity race. In last year’s election, Mortimore was acclaimed as the SA’s LGBTQ representative as part of Act Now’s slate.
Wilson said he’s been trying to strike a balance between a fair election process and the smooth operation of the SA. With four out of five executive board members running again this year, Wilson will allow executive committee members to perform essential functions, including meeting with senior SA staff and legal counsel, the execution of cheques and contracts, as well as any duties deemed urgent by the managers of the organization.
In the ruling on this matter, Wilson wrote that “the subject of a confidential briefing has given me a clear and compelling case,” and that the previous practice of removing anyone running from the operations of the SA entirely during the election period was not possible.
“That was a serious issue that was brought to my attention,” Wilson said. “We had to look at how we ensure that the elections were fair, but you also look at how you ensure the operations of the Student Association, that (don’t) go away when the elections are called, can continue in some way.”
The voting period for the SA general elections begins on Friday, March 31 and ends on Thursday, April 6.