Photo: Deanna Krueger

RSU election report cites disqualifications and slates “pressuring” online voters

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By Jacob Dubé

The majority of the official complaints in this year’s Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) elections were towards Team Unify, which won all the executive positions and most board positions.

At the end of every RSU election, the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) publishes a report recapping the entire process and providing recommendations for the coming years. This year’s report, written by CRO Amiri Dear and obtained by The Eyeopener, was approved by the RSU board of directors on Feb. 27Here are some of the highlights:

Abuse of the Online Voting System

Dear wrote that the online voting system brought along some significant issues pertaining to privacy, and that permitting students to vote from their own personal devices “somewhat strips voters of the ability to vote in private, anonymously and free from undue pressure.”

Dear reported that he received 10 complaints that suggested candidates or their volunteers either gave voters their personal tablets or phones to vote or stood over voters while they cast their vote.

“This was done in order to manipulate the vote by directing the individuals how they should vote. This is a serious problem as voters should feel secure while voting.”

 

“I have no doubt that both teams were seeking to influence the vote by ‘guiding’ voters through the voting process”

 

A member of Team Elevate sent a message to the CRO saying that Unify was interfering with voters. While Dear conducted a walkaround, Unify presidential candidate Ram Ganesh approached him and said Elevate was doing the same.

“I have no doubt that both teams were seeking to influence the vote by ‘guiding’ voters through the voting process,” Dear wrote.

On Feb. 14, Dear received numerous complaints from students regarding voter interference by Team Unify members. He received a complaint from an RSU staffer that said he saw former RSU president and Unify campaign manager Obaid Ullah outside of Balzac’s “informing a potential voter that he could walk them through the voting process on their phone.”

He also got a message from a voter asking whether he could re-cast his vote as his previous vote was influenced by members of Team Unify.

“They told me to vote and I felt like I couldn’t walk away,” the voter said.

Dear recommends that online voting should only take place at polling stations next year to avoid this issue. If not, he asks that greater resources be given to the CRO to “facilitate monitoring of on-campus voting to ensure that no campaigners are trying to unfairly influence the vote.”

Demerit Points:

In total, the Rhino party received two demerit points for campaigning ahead of the alloted campaign dates, and Elevate was given three demerit points, two for posting campaign signs with a design that had not been approved by the CRO and one for online voter interference.

Unify received nine demerit points in total, three for online voter interference, and six for sending unsolicited online messages to students asking for campaign support. Dear wrote that he increased the penalties for certain infractions because of repeat offenses.

 

“It worries me that people in the RSU are abusing their privilege and releasing students’ personal information for some votes”

 

The bylaws state that candidates are explicitly forbidden from campaigning via any form of electronic mail, and the CRO decided that Facebook messaging, or any unsolicited electronic message, counts under that.

According to the report, a student wrote to the CRO that they “suspect that they got my email from the student group list from the RSU” since they mentioned her by name. “This is a privacy concern. It worries me that people in the RSU are abusing their privilege and releasing students’ personal information for some votes.” She also said she was already added to a large group chat on Facebook concerning endorsements for Unify.

Disqualifications:

Vishal Venkatesh, a candidate for Team Unify, was disqualified on Feb. 15, the last day of voting, after two complaints were issued stating that he sent an unsolicited electronic message asking for their vote. He received three demerit points, and since this was combined with Unify’s overall nine demerit points,  he was automatically disqualified.

Mohammed Malek, also a candidate for Team Unify, was disqualified on Feb. 15 for campaigning near a polling station. More specifically, Dear wrote that he campaigned directly to the poll clerks.

“There are not only students wearing a ‘poll clerk’ badges there, but there is a clearly visible tablet erected for voting purposes,” Dear wrote. The report states that it took several attempts for them to get Malek to leave the polling station. He was issued three demerit points and was automatically disqualified.

Ali Yousaf and the post about the “Internalized Racist”

The report also mentions the incident where current RSU vice-president operations Ali Yousaf made a Facebook post claiming that the work environment at the union was “toxic” and referenced a video where Elevate campaign manager Vajdaan Tanveer called him an “internalized racist.”

Dear wrote that Yousaf asked him for permission to make a statement on Facebook beforehand, but “took no action” since the events preceded the campaign period and “appeared to be personal matters between 2 individuals that existed beyond the election and which should be resolved without my intervention.”

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