Timing of SA elections contributed to “voter apathy and fatigue,” says elections report
The end of spring term can be a grind, as students plow through deadlines, exams and part-time work. Add elections for the Student Association’s (SA) board of directors, and there’s a chance that students will tune out while candidates burn out.
For those running in the recent SA spring elections, the timing of the campaign this year forced them to choose between class and campaigning.
“I know a lot of my running mates had to sacrifice class time to campaign,” said Mitchell Toye, who was a candidate for the director of education position.
Toye said that he wasn’t surprised by his loss to Tiffany White in the election. He said that his defeat was in part because of how dedicated White was during the campaign, but also because Toye choose classes over campaigning.
“I wasn’t campaigning as hard as some of my compatriots or my competition because I still wanted to focus on school,” he said. “And I think that’s a sad thing that I kind of have to admit is that I could have campaigned harder if I just sacrificed a bit more of my class time.”
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For Alex Stewart, who was elected as the director of equity, campaigning with a heavy workload took its toll.
“It takes a lot out of you to balance all the assignments and school work and exams that you have to go through along with engaging with students,” he said. “At times it can be discouraging, especially if the reception of the students isn’t ideally what you would want.”
The chief returning officer’s (CRO) report on the elections recommends holding the elections earlier in the year, calling the timing of the campaign “chronologically the latest in the province, and possibly in the Canadian post-secondary system.”
The report also provides a draft timeline for future elections, with nominations for the spring elections starting on Feb. 16, 2018 and voting ending on March 15.
The report said that “the timing created issues surrounding voter apathy and fatigue.” And while it would be harder on elections officials having an earlier election, “would have led to greater student engagement and results.”
Voting for students elections at Ryerson, Sheridan, and OCAD concluded in February this year, while polls closed for University of Toronto’s elections on March 16 and at Humber College on March 17.
An SA elections committee is struck for general and byelections to oversee several aspects of the elections, including recommending potential dates to the board of directors. The SA board then votes on the recommendations to set dates for the elections period.
Waterfront campus director Gracel Quibrantar was part of the elections committee, and said that elections dates were chosen to not interfere with SA events and the SA’s Spring General Meeting, which took place on March 6.
Quilbrantar also said that a February elections period was considered but the committee decided there wasn’t enough time to organize it. The elections committee first met on Jan. 26.
Riddhi Modi, who was elected as director of communications and internal, said that although the time of year didn’t affect her campaign, she thinks that having the elections earlier in the year would help candidates be more involved in the campaign.
“It happened during the election that many of our own people were not able to take part in the debates because they had their final exams and presentations, and since they were finals there was no way it could be retaken or postponed,” she said.
Stewart, Brittney DaCosta and Harjit Singh Dua, who were candidates for the director of campus life and communications and internal respectively missed election debates due to their academic workload during the campaign.
The CRO’s elections report makes several recommendations, which could effect the timing of the SA elections. One recommendation would see the CRO seek letters of academic accommodation from the college for candidates so that they might get some academic relief.
The report notes that, if accepted, the recommendation would make candidates’ attendance at debates “expected and required.”