Referendum questions raised at open forum
At the open forum Jon Pryce and Matt Casselman presented three referendum questions which will be presented on ballots for undergraduate students at both of Wilfrid Laurier University’s campuses in the upcoming student elections.
Pryce, chief governance officer, presented and elaborated on the first referendum question which refers to a by-law change. The question involves the following change: the board of directors will automatically refer any referendum to the membership at the next available Annual General, General, or Special General Meeting upon receiving written request from no less than five percent of the eligible voting membership.
“Pretty much what its saying is that if 5% of students come together and wish to pose a referendum question, it will automatically go to the Annual General, Special General, and General meeting,” explained Pryce.
Currently, students have a small timeframe to submit questions – between November 1 to the 25- before the opportunity is closed. If the referendum is voted on, Pryce explained, it will enable students to have greater access and will be more democratic.
“It allows students, if they’re really passionate about something, to pose to the membership without having to meet those deadlines- they can just do it whenever,” he continued.
The question, however, will still need to be approved by the membership and be voted on.
Casselman presented the second and third referendum questions which refer to electoral reforms. The second question involves the first electoral reform, which reads: “Do you support that the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union adopts a preferential ballot system using the Single Transferable Vote (STV) voting system for the Annual General Meeting, Special General Meeting, or any other General Meeting where a multi-winner position is being contested?”
The third question involves the second electoral reform, which outlines a similar change but wherein an Optional Instant Runoff Vote (IRV) will be used where a single winner position is being contested.
“Right now we use a first to pass the post system,” explained Casselman. “Candidates are elected by whichever candidate receives a plurality of votes. So they don’t necessarily have to receive the majority of the votes, just as long as they receive the most votes out of the candidates.”
The problem with this, as Casselman outlined, is that people may vote strategically so that the person who wins is the candidate who they would most prefer to win out of those who are posited as most likely to win. What this new system would allow for is that the candidate who people would most like to win would win.
Casselman expanded on this, “With STV all candidates need to pass a threshold and that threshold is determined by a formula- like the number of votes over the number of seats- and then you have to pass that number in order to be elected.”
These reforms reflect the system used in European countries. Casselman hopes that by implementing this at Laurier, the university will help the provincial and federal level understand how the systems look in practice.