The 2017 Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union election season has officially opened to students.
The All-Candidates Meeting, held at 10 p.m. on Jan. 9, properly kicked off the season by introducing the candidates for Students’ Union president, board of directors, senate and board of governors.
Throughout the meeting, Nick DeSumma, chair of the board of directors and Elizabeth Thompson, assistant chief returning officer, proposed the rules and regulations of the 2017 elections over the next two weeks.
Campaigning officially began 30 minutes after the end of the All-Candidates Meeting and will end 30 minutes prior to opening of voting polls on Jan. 24.
Unlike years prior, the dates of the campaign period will end in late January, rather than early February.
According to DeSumma, the Students’ Union wanted to take a risk and see if the date changes will impact voter turnout.
“Unlike other years — at least in my mind and my experience, elections have been more of a topic in October, November and December and then it’s a surprising thing that’s happening in January. It’s more of a topic earlier on and I think that’s been great to see,” he said.
During the meeting, DeSumma announced that all candidates, including the two candidates for board of governors and three candidates for senate, would be acclaimed, yet one spot is still available for senate.
There are 15 candidates for the board of directors, including three on the Brantford campus.Last year, 20 candidates ran for board of directors and four candidates ran for board of governors.
This year, however, there appears to be more female candidates than years passed.
“I would’ve loved it to be a race but obviously those positions are a little bit more difficult because it’s on the university’s side, so students have a harder time grasping what they do, so for the students who did get acclaimed,” Thompson said, “I think they’ll do a great job.”
Only one candidate is running for the position of the Students’ Union president and CEO: fourth-year political science student and former director, Kanwar Brar.
While running alone can bring both positive and negative factors, Brar believed the biggest challenge during the campaign season will be encouraging students to vote, even if it is a “yes or no” voting system.
“I’m going to run this election just how I would anyways with an opponent, just to make sure people are voting “yes” and just because I’m the only candidate so they don’t assume I’m acclaimed or [I’ll] automatically get it, because that’s not the case,” he said.
When asked if the low participation rate of this year’s election season will mean low voter turnouts at the polls, Brar explained that while he cannot confirm nor deny, he does anticipate the turnout rate will be low.
“When you assess past elections and there have been times where five presidential candidates have run and the benefit of that is that each candidate draws out their own demographic and people and when I started this process that’s one thing I really wanted to do,” said Brar.
Thompson, however, believed one presidential candidate will hopefully increase voter turnout.
“We’re promoting ‘you just vote yes or no.’ It’s even easier than ranking candidates, so hopefully students will be like “this is awesome!” and see him around and vote for him.”
“I think that really depends on the campaign period, even low numbers can be a high voice,” DeSumma said.
“Depending how engaged the candidates are with the students of Laurier and how we are as well, running the elections. I really don’t want to say it has anything to do with voter turnout because really, it’s up to us over the next two weeks.”
The Students’ Union election season will feature events on both the Waterloo and Brantford campuses.
Open Forum will take place on Jan. 12 in Brantford and Jan. 18 in Waterloo. As well, the Live Presidential Debate will be on Jan. 19 in Waterloo.
Polls will be open from Jan. 24-26 with the election results party being held at Wilf’s later that evening.
“I want to hear your issues and I think a benefit of running alone is it gives me an opportunity to actually engage in issues very thoroughly so I can solely focus
on the idea, so that’s one thing I’m looking forward to,” Brar said.
“We’ve opened info sessions and started live-streaming. We have voting booths in multiple
buildings. There’s more opportunity for engagement and for students to see elections and see what’s going on,” said DeSumma.