Following an emergency meeting on Monday concerning UMSU’s recent general election, the union’s board of directors ruled that Tracy Ayebare Karuhogo will become the next UMSU president with 32.9 per cent of the total vote.
The meeting was scheduled after the disqualification of former presidential candidate Justin Langan and his subsequent appeal of the ruling to the UMSU judicial board. The board eventually upheld the disqualification, but in accordance with the appeal process, Langan remained on the ballot during the election while his appeal awaited a decision.
Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Erin Robert presented a motion to hold a runoff election between Karuhogo, Victoria Romero and Roleen Alarab.
The union announced its new president via its Instagram on Monday night, but disabled comments on the post.
UMSU’s board of directors ruled the CRO’s motion to be out of order. Before that, the March 10 email about Langan’s disqualification received by UMSU members 45 minutes before polls closed said that “any votes for this candidate will be voided.”
The UMSU election manual requires the CRO to bring a request to void part or all of an election to the UMSU judiciary board for review. However, Robert said that “due to the time sensitive nature” of the issue and recent resignations on the judicial board, she went to the UMSU board of directors instead.
Robert’s decision to disqualify Langan claimed that he broke the rules outlined in the elections manual and that he violated copyright law by plagiarizing a copyrighted website.
Langan acknowledged that the “navigational portion” as well as text on his website containing the phrase “this is your movement” were similar to U.S. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’s webpage, but he does not believe he violated any copyright law.
The disqualification upheld by the judicial board was Langan’s second. The first concerned rules allegedly broken by Langan’s campaign regarding pre-campaigning on social media.
Langan received 912 votes in the election — 22.1 per cent of the popular vote. Despite Langan’s disqualification, the UMSU board of directors ruled that there would not be a revote.
Victoria Romero, current UMSU vice-president advocacy and presidential candidate in the recent election, attended the meeting as a student-at-large. She said that the CRO’s motion was ruled out of order by the acting chair of the board because they found that “there was no rule broken.”
According to the motion presented to the board of directors, the board considers the votes that Langan received in the election to count as abstentions.
Romero believes that no students’ voices should be discounted. “Whether it be one student or 912, I think that it’s important that their votes are considered as valid and just as important and taken as seriously as any others,” she said.
While they acknowledged that the CRO did follow protocol by leaving Langan on the ballot during the appeal process, Romero said “the fact that that had to happen and the candidate was still on the ballot misleading students is an issue.”
“Regardless of who the candidate is, if they’re in the race and that’s who students selected to represent them, that’s still valid,” she added.
UMSU’s election manual states that if a situation occurs where “the results of the election could not reasonably be deemed to indicate the actual preference of the voters,” the election or the part of the election affected by the situation can be declared void following certain procedures.
Romero said that the board is now planning to examine UMSU bylaws to determine how it can prevent a situation like this from happening again. She said that this is a good step, but that “it does nothing to address the fact that 22 per cent of the vote was just silenced.”
UMSU president Jaron Rykiss declined to comment on the board’s decision before press time, but said that a union statement is forthcoming.
Romero reported that some ideas that the board discussed having the governance committee look into included having a minimum number of votes required for victory and stipulations regarding how long a candidate is able to remain on the ballot post-disqualification.
As a student, Romero said, “I wouldn’t really feel comfortable knowing that the student union was not fulfilling its role of listening to students.”
“I think the best thing they can do is make sure that the process to prevent [this] in the future is really transparent.”
Romero provided comment to the Manitoban as a student-at-large.
14/03/2023: The article originally read that the CRO’s motion was to void the presidential votes following Langan’s disqualification. It has since been corrected that the motion presented was to hold a runoff election between the remaining presidential candidates. In addition, the update clarifies that the board recognized that existing votes for Langan would count as abstentions. The update refers to the motion brought forward by the CRO.