2022 SU General Election Full Supplement

Fabian Mayer

Students’ Union campaign rules hold back candidates

By Keean Bexte, March 15, 2016 —

In this year’s Students’ Union election, 24.8 percent of students took time out of their day to go online and vote. This showing would be embarrassing for any municipal government, and it might put our claim to the highest Student Union voter turnout in the country in jeopardy. In the 2014 election, 7,339 students voted. But in 2015, that number fell to 6,190. And this year’s turnout dropped further, to 6,018.

You may wonder what the SU is doing to fix these disappointing numbers. The answer is nothing — if anything, it appears they’re actively doing the opposite. Chief Returning Officers Nolan Hill and Dan Medland-Marchen approved problem-riddled rules that actively kept candidates from their electorate.

Club involvement was restricted to club leadership sending pre-approved electronic communications to their membership if they chose to endorse a candidate. If they sent out something that is not approved, the candidate would be slapped with a $25 fine and a temporary ban on campaigning.

Secondly, there continues to be a moratorium on negative campaigning. As a candidate, you aren’t allowed to point out flaws in your opponents. Are your opponents’ platform points unrealistic or misguided? Don’t dare mention that to voters — it might make them care who gets elected. Not only is this an affront to freedom of speech, it also undercuts students’ abilities to make an informed decision.

In addition to being forced to be nice to your opponents, everything you use as campaign material must be approved by the SU. Have something particularly damning to say about the way they do things? Better just stay home.

The policy also forces candidates to jump through unreasonable hoops to speak to classrooms of students. Professors must give pre-written consent to candidates who want to speak to their classes. The logistics of this are nearly impossible for candidates to manage when they have a campaign to run and midterms to write.  

In a letter to the candidates sent out on March 2, the CROs said: “you must submit to us a summary record of your permission slips/information regarding your classroom visits (if you used this as a campaign strategy) by 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.” Classroom visits are the single most effective method of communication with voters, and current policy puts candidates in a position where they can’t properly utilize it.

Keeping voter turnout low is good for the establishment. When only the hyper-engaged and their friends vote, only the hyper-engaged get elected and only their buddies replace them. If this continues, then the SU will never change — and this is exactly what they want.

Keean Bexte is a third-year natural sciences student. He writes a monthly column about Students’ Union politics called Committee of the Whole

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