Disqualifications reversed for all Concordia student election candidates

Student council makes a reasonable decision to overturn disqualification of opposition slate

The post election kerfuffle at the Concordia Student Union, which saw almost everyone who ran be disqualified, appears to be over.

On Wednesday, in one of their last actions, outgoing student council members voted to allow everyone who was elected take office and to reimburse candidates for election expenses.

The situation began around two weeks after the vote, held in late March, when elections chief, Oliver Cohen, disqualified both of the teams that contested the election.

A couple of weeks later, that decision was modified by the judicial board, who overturned Cohen’s decision to disqualify “Your Concordia,” the team that won the student union executive, a majority on council and most of the student seats on the university’s senate and board of governors.

However, the board upheld Cohen’s decision to deny both teams reimbursement for election expenses and to disqualify the other slate, “Action,” which won several council seats and a spot on the university senate.

The judicial board’s written report, released on Monday, alleges that both slates violated election rules by campaigning after polls had opened and that the winning slate engaged in negative campaigning. Shocking, I know.

According to the Concordian, councillors who supported reinstating the candidates said they were afraid that students in Concordia’s business school would be disenfranchised, as all their representatives remained disqualified.

It’s an interesting argument, but I think the real problem with the decisions to disqualify these candidates is that neither Cohen nor the judicial board attempted to prove that the alleged violations actually affected the results of the election. Disenfranchising every student is a serious action and should only be done in the gravest circumstances.

In “real” elections, it has to be proven that the results were actually affected for the vote to be annulled. As Ontario Superior Court Justice, Alexandra Hoy wrote in a 2011 decision about a Toronto election, “people have exercised their right to vote, and their votes should not be discounted without good reason.”

And the reasons presented here, especially considering the sorts of shenanigans that have taken place in previous Concordia elections, just aren’t good enough to throw out an entire election.

Sure, candidates shouldn’t break the rules, but should wearing a blue shirt after polling starts really be grounds for disqualification?

Some of the rules in this case seem downright ridiculous. According to judicial board member Tuan Dinh, “any rhetoric that refers to an oppositional party, even if through contrast” is grounds for disqualifying an entire team. Goodness. If Dinh was working for Elections Canada, we’d never stop having federal elections.

The “offending” item in question is a “rap” video where “Your Concordia” candidates spit cutting lines like, “nothing rhymes with Concordia except for ‘Action’ we’re sincerely getting bored of ya’.”

Cunning word-play it is not, but this was an election, not an MC battle and this video certainly wasn’t defamatory, slanderous or libellous as was claimed by Cohen and Dinh.

The other big problem with these disqualifications was that they penalized entire political parties for the actions of one or two individual candidates. Imagine if Elections Canada disqualified every Conservative who ran in the last election because one of them showed up at a polling station wearing a party t-shirt. Sounds pretty unreasonable, does it not?

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