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Various TMSU candidates receive demerit points for breaking election bylaws

By Anna-Giselle Funes-Eng and Dexter LeRuez

Candidates running in the initial 2023-24 Toronto Metropolitan Students’ Union (TMSU) election received multiple demerit points for violating the Elections Procedures Code

Six rulings were posted by the Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC) to the TMSU website on the evening of March 27, following the election involving slate and non-slate candidates.

According to one ruling, multiple non-slate candidates received demerit points after having their profiles shared by the Indian Students’ Association’s (ISA) Instagram account, as previously reported by The Eyeopener

Presidential candidate Marina Gerges, vice president equity candidate Aya Bakir, vice president operations candidate Angie Awadallah, vice president education candidate Sherry Pourghaz* and Creative School faculty director candidate Gus Cousins received two demerit points each.

Ted Rogers School of Management director candidate Ayub Mohammed was the only candidate part of a slate—Ayub and Brandon—to receive two demerit points for the ISA’s endorsement.

Vice president student life candidate Ozi Molokwu and international director candidate-elect Olivia Okoro received one demerit point each for benefitting from the ISA’s endorsement. 

“Two candidates proactively contacted the Elections Team to distance themselves from the post,” read the ruling. “There is no evidence that the endorsements were requested, however candidates were able to benefit from the outcomes of the endorsement.”

The ruling said candidates violated section 8.1.31 of the Elections Procedures Code that states “Endorsement(s) of Candidates from Campus Groups is prohibited.”

The ISA told The Eye they were not aware they were violating bylaws. 

In another ruling, Gerges, Pourghaz and Bakir received 12 demerit points each after “a student submitted video evidence of a person accessing a students device” to vote for the aforementioned candidates, according to the ruling. 

This violated section of the Elections Procedures Code, which prohibits campaigning to an individual in the process of voting, accessing student voting portals and cross-campaigning. 

The 12 demerit points each candidate received comprised three sections of infractions.

Gerges, Pourghaz and Bakir received eight demerit points for campaigning to individuals while they were voting. The maximum amount of demerits for campaigning during the voting process is 15. 

The candidates also received two demerit points for accessing members’ voting portals out of the maximum of 25. 

For cross-campaigning, candidates received two out of a maximum of 25 demerit points. 

“Less weight was given to this submission on the issue of ‘accessing members voting portals’, as the source of the video was submitted by a student, and not the TMSU Elections Compliance Officer,” the ruling states.

Gerges received an additional four demerit points for “cross-campaigning with student societies” and the “misrepresentation of facts” after reposting content from the Faculty of Community Services (FCSS), according to another election ruling.

On March 22, the FCSS released an anti-endorsement of three TMSU slate teams, as previously reported by The Eye. They alleged that these slates have potential relationships to nine previous TMSU slates; Impact, Spark, Unify, Candor, Rise, Adapt, Forward, Revolution and Levitate.

According to the ruling, Gerges was in violation of adding “misinformation to the post about current Candidates running in the TMSU Elections,” which resulted in two out of eight possible demerit points for cross campaigning with student societies and two out of five possible demerit points for misrepresentation of facts. 

As previously reported by The Eye, Bakir accrued 15 demerit points for unapproved campaign material and cross-campaigning, violating section, according to a March 24 date ruling.

Bakir appealed the CRO’s decision on March 26, requesting a reduction in demerit points and acknowledging her wrongdoings, according to a March 26 date ruling.

“On March 26, 2023 the ERC reviewed the appeal and denied the reduction of demerit points under section of the ECP Unauthorized Cross-Campaigning within TMSU Elections,” the ruling read.

All of Bakir’s 15 demerit points were given for “Unapproved Material.” Bakir will receive the maximum points allowed for unapproved material under the Elections Procedures Code.

Vice president operations candidate Nathan Sugunalan received 20 demerit points for “failure to comply with the spirit and purpose of the Code,” according to an election ruling posted March 27.

Sugunalan submitted video evidence of a person trying to engage him to vote, according to the ruling.

“While this is a breach itself, the ERC has acknowledged that the Candidate Nathan Sugunalan was also trying to entrap the person by asking specific questions that would lead to the person breaking the EPC and TMSU By-Laws,” read the ruling. “It was apparent in the video that Nathan Sugunalan was repeating everything the person was saying and goading the person.”

Another ruling issued 17 demerit points to The Creative School Director candidate Gus Cousins for pre-campaigning and the use of animals while campaigning, violating sections and 8.1.28 of the Elections Procedures Code respectively. 

Section prohibits the “posting or distributing Campaign Materials, online Campaigning, Social Media statements, Classroom campaign talks and Campaigning at social events” before the established campaign period. 

Section 8.1.28 of the Elections Procedures Code states that “The use of animals for Campaigning is forbidden.”

The ERC issued two demerit points for the use of animals and 15 demerit points, the maximum possible amount, for pre-campaigning violations. 

Executive candidates can receive up to 35 demerits before disqualifying for their seat, according to the Elections Procedures Code. For directors, that number is 20.

*A previous version of this article listed this source under a different name but has since been updated to reflect the source’s preferred identification.

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