By Jake MacAndrew, Gabriela Silva Ponte and Racy Rafique
The Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union’s (TMSU) in-person, physical ballot election planned for April 11 to 13 has been cancelled, according to an Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC) statement released on April 4.
“New evidence has been presented to the committee that raises significant concerns about the integrity of the entire election process, not just the voting process which was the subject of our last Special Decision,” the statement, which was posted to the TMSU’s website, reads.
On March 30, the ERC initially released a special decision announcing that the March election was deemed invalid and called for a new in-person, physical ballot election to be held in April.
The ERC said the newly-presented information alleged serious violations of the students’ union bylaws and the Elections Procedures Code. “Upon reviewing the new evidence, the ERC has come to the conclusion that there has been, and continues to be, persistent intentional efforts to undermine the integrity of the entire TMSU election process,” it said in the statement.
The ERC also released an addendum to its special decision. “In particular, the evidence demonstrates that there is good reason to believe that there has been a range of election-related misconduct on the part of multiple individuals,” the addendum reads.
The addendum outlines new instances of misconduct that the ERC had not previously addressed, including:
- “8.1.32, Unauthorized Campaigners: No two (2) or more Candidates may have their campaign benefit from the same Non-Arm’s Length Party, unless the Candidate’s are registered to the same Slate.
- 8.1.38. Cross-Campaigning is not allowed between multiple Slates or non-slate Candidates.
- 8.2.4. A Candidate’s total expenditure includes all Campaign Materials and other materials that endorse or support them. This may include situations where a Non-Arm’s Length Party supports a Candidate or group of Candidates and produces materials without the consent of the Candidate.
- 8.1.16. Any attempt to undermine the electoral process including, but not limited to, interference with or compromising the TMSU’s Online Voting Systems.
- 8.1.14. Malicious or intentional breach of Code.”
In light of this evidence, the ERC said the integrity of the entire election process, from nominations to the vote that took place, has been deemed “irredeemably compromised.”
The ERC’s statement said the TMSU must hold a byelection in the fall, in accordance with TMSU bylaws.
According to section 4.17.1 of the TMSU bylaws, a byelection will be initiated in the month of September “provided that a vacancy occurs during the months of May, June or July.” Until the vacancy is filled, “the Executive Committee may designate an interim Director to fill the vacant office subject to Board approval.”
Until the byelections take place in the fall, the ERC said it will appoint director and executive candidates to temporarily hold office “to maintain operational continuity.”
The appointment process will be conducted “in consultation with legal counsel and the Board of Directors to ensure transparency and fairness,” reads the statement. TMSU members will also be eligible to put themselves forward for consideration in these interim positions.
All executive positions on the TMSU remain vacant after Team Revolt was disqualified and president Marina Gerges was not re-elected for a second term.
Gerges, who ran for presidency unopposed, was not elected after receiving more “no” votes than “yes” votes, as previously reported by The Eyeopener.
According to section 9.2.2 of the Elections Procedures Code, “Executive Candidates who are uncontested shall face a Yes or No vote. If fifty per cent (50%+1) or greater number of the votes are cast as ‘No’, such Executive Candidate shall not be elected and the seat shall be vacant pending appointment or By-Election in accordance with these By-laws.”
Team Revolt candidates who ran in the initial election accumulated 60 demerit points over the campaign period, deeming them ineligible to take office, as previously reported by The Eye. The slate consisted of former vice president operations-elect Mahira Shoaib, former vice president education-elect Abeeha Ahmad, former vice president equity-elect Trevohn Baker and former vice president student life-elect Kareena Bhatia.
According to section 22.214.171.124 of the Elections Procedures Code, executive candidates who accumulate over 35 demerit points will be disqualified.
The slate violated bylaws by accessing a member’s voting portal on their behalf, campaigning to students while they are voting, misrepresentation of fact and unauthorized campaigning, on multiple instances.
On March 30, the Board of Directors carried a motion to deem disqualified candidates from the initial 2023-24 election ineligible to run in the upcoming election. The motion was carried but has not yet passed and is contingent on consultation with the students’ union’s legal counsel on whether the Board has the power to make the decision, as previously reported by The Eye.
The ERC also revealed in its April 4 statement that it is working with legal counsel to initiate a third-party investigation into alleged election misconduct that occurred during the 2023-24 elections.
“There has been a lot of information and misinformation shared about the TMSU over the past two months. We know that members are rightfully tired,” the April 4 statement reads. “We want to assure you that the ERC and the TMSU are working diligently to ensure the integrity of our elections and the organization more broadly, and keep students aware of the process, next steps and accountability mechanisms that are in place during these times. ”
The ERC said it will continue to keep students informed of the next steps to be taken and provide more information as it is confirmed.
“We understand that this situation is unprecedented, and we appreciate your patience and support as we work diligently to uphold the integrity of our elections and the democratic process within TMSU,” the statement reads.