Questions raised about candidate disqualification

Last Wednesday, presidential candidate Reed Collis was disqualified from the election for having accumulated too many demerit points.

This decision was made by the elections appeals committee after he was awarded three demerit points each for his Facebook group, event and fan page. A tenth point was awarded for Collis’ improper use of the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union logo.

Collis appealed the decision to be disqualified from the race; however, the appeals committee rejected this.

“My argument was that Facebook itself was one medium not three different mediums,” said Collis.

“I was appealing that I should only get a four-point punishment and stay in the race – not 10 and be disqualified.”

Chair of the board of directors and chief governing officer Saad Aslam noted that Facebook falls under the category of a moderate offense, making it worth three demerit points. “[This year] everything online needs to be pre-approved,” said Aslam.

Aslam added that usually the appeals committee will want to hear from the candidate who is making the appeal, however, in Collis’ case he was not called into the meeting to state his case.

“The candidate will only be called into the meeting if the committee deems that candidate’s thoughts in defense of his/her appeal are necessary,” said Aslam.

The committee voted 2-1 in favour of allowing Collis to continue in the presidential race.

However, a vote was then made by the chair making the vote 2-2, which nullified the initial result.

According to Robert’s Rules article VI section 14: “The chair of the board of directors shall not vote unless the vote is by ballot or his or her vote would change the outcome.”

Although Aslam stated that he was acting in accordance with Robert’s Rules, 2008-09 chair Asif Bacchus believes that this was a misinterpretation by Aslam.

Bacchus argues that despite the confusing nature of the phrase – that the chair will only vote when it changes the outcome – a chair should only ever vote in the case of a tie.

“The really important thing to realize there is that Robert’s Rules has to kick in at this point and says that the chair can only vote in the event of a tie, therefore the only time that a chair’s vote will change the outcome is in the event of a tie.”

Current director and chair of the elections review committee Chris Oberle shared Bacchus’ concern about the validity of the vote cast by the chair of the board.

He explained that since there is only one student at large on the committee this year following a change in election policy, as opposed to previous years when two students sat, there are only three voting members on the appeals committee.

“Unless one of the three voting members is not at the meeting, then the chair cannot vote.”

Because the vote was 2-2 in the end, the vote becomes null and the motion fails – in this case it resulted in Collis’ disqualification.

“[Collis] shouldn’t have been disqualified,” said Oberle, based on the information about how the appeals committee voted.

“If it was a null vote, then more discussion or something would have to take place. It is supposed to be a majority vote, if the vote is nullified, you can’t have one person saying he’s disqualified because it was nullified. I don’t understand why [he was],” said Oberle.

Director and elections appeals committee member Laura Allen, believes that the chair is allowed to vote on a situation if the voting is tied, or if he feels strongly about an issue.

“To be honest I’m not exactly sure the logic behind it, to go from majority to a tie, but I guess the logic is that if you’re that divided and it’s that controversial then maybe you should have an additional person weighing in and more voices,” said Allen.

“I’m not positive but I guess in this case it spurred more discussion and we tried to find more compromises and found that a solution could not be reached and the appeal failed.”

Allen noted that a lot of discussion took place among the appeals committee regarding Collis’ possible knowledge of the rules regarding electronic campaigning, which he received almost all of his demerit points for.

Collis explained that he was told not to attend the first All Candidates Meeting (ACM) held on Jan. 20, as his initial nomination package had been rejected for lacking 100 valid signatures; he later won this specific appeal.

“That’s where they were told the rules. The only rules I was [going] on was what I was reading on the Internet so I did not realize I was breaking a rule,” said Collis.

Aslam, who also chairs the elections appeals committee, noted that following the ACM it was expected that the candidates knew the rules and policies around campaigning.

Aslam did note, however, that he could see how Collis might have gotten confused about the policies if he missed the ACM and did not arrange for an alternate meeting.

“I think one of the big things that has really irked me is the idea of the censorship going on in WLUSU right now,” commented Ben Schattmann, a member of Collis’ campaign team.

“That doesn’t really seem very democratic to me and I don’t think it would seem very democratic to many other students.”