Oct 30, 2012

J-Board upholds AUS Referendum

Bangs vs. Calver and Cheng verdict rules in favour of Elections AUS

Erica Friesen

Last week, the Judicial Board (J-Board) of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) ruled to uphold the Winter 2012 referendum for the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS). Chris Bangs, U3 arts, filed the case against former AUS president Jade Calver and former AUS Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Victor Cheng last March.

“We recognize that the Respondents were at fault for violating the by-laws,” the verdict reads. “However, we do not find that these violations were so severe as to undermine the voting system and require the invalidation of the AUS Winter referendum.”

In his petition, Bangs raised concerns about alleged violations of six AUS by-laws. He argued that these violations compromised the results of the election, and asked that the J-Board invalidate the two questions for which he chaired the ‘No’ committee. One motion mandates the online ratification of decisions made by the AUS General Assembly (GA), and the other increases the number of votes needed to amend the AUS constitution to a two-thirds majority.

Design by Susanne Wang

Design by Susanne Wang

The J-Board found that three of the six alleged by-law violations were justified. The AUS failed to ratify motions in both French and English, to give a minimum of six days for campaigning, and to advertise the elections in a student publication.

The J-Board explained that the third violation is “serious.” The AUS advertised the information in its listserv, which does not count as a student publication, according to AUS by-laws.

“Listservs, unlike newspapers, are not a medium through which students can voice their opinion,” the verdict reads. “Listservs do not have a reply mechanism equivalent to letters to the editor, for example. The very informational nature of listservs is therefore not conducive to debate in the way that newspapers are.”

However, the J-Board found these three violations provided insufficient grounds for the invalidation of the referendum, because the “reasonably informed voter” would still have had sufficient time to learn about the issues. In addition, the AUS by-laws allow Elections AUS to exercise its discretion when dealing with violations.

“The Respondents’ conduct, though not free from scrutiny, was indicative of a person mindful of its role in preserving the integrity of the elections all the while ensuring that the process runs smoothly,” the verdict reads.

Bangs expressed concerns over the verdict after the ruling was issued. In its consideration of the AUS’ failure to ratify the motions in both languages, the J-Board argues that Bangs did not submit the referendum questions, which meant that the J-Board could not assess the differences between the two.

“I do not have an official copy of the referendum questions, which were never sent out to the members,” Bangs argued. “That is something the decision did not recognize—I could not submit copies of the motion to the Judicial Board.”

Bangs said he is grateful the case has been resolved, but is also worried about the implications this ruling has for the AUS.

“While the CRO cannot, according to the Judicial Board, just ignore the by-laws, the J-Board believes that it falls on the members of the AUS to inform themselves of the minutia of the by-laws and document complaints at every infraction,” he said. “This leaves the AUS unaccountable for poor decisions.”

AUS President Devon LaBuik said that the J-Board case only affects the AUS in that this semester’s referendum period and GA were delayed. If the J-Board case had been successful, the delayed referendum period would have allowed movers of the invalidated motions to re-submit their questions.

LaBuik said the case has also affected the AUS’ approach during the referendum period.

“We’re being much more careful in acknowledging … the electoral by-laws,” he said.“We’re being very careful this time around and ensuring we’ve followed every rule in the book.”

Calver and Cheng could not be reached for comment.

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