Recent KSA Election “Marred with Numerous Accusations of Candidates Flouting the Rules”

A report released by the chief returning officer detailed the nature of the allegations and how they were addressed

Chief Returning Officer Ron Laufer listens to a question asked by Councilor Jasika Rai during a meeting on Mar. 15. (Braden Klassen)

According to a report filed by KSA Chief Returning Officer Ron Laufer on Feb. 28, the KSA’s February election “was marred with numerous accusations of candidates flouting the rules and procedures of the election process.”

“Many of the accusations made are difficult to prove, but can substantially erode confidence in the elections,” Laufer wrote in his report to KSA Council. He added that he has “great concern that there was a large degree of slating taking place that [he] simply could not confirm.”

Slating is when multiple candidates “team up” during an election by running on a common platform and encouraging voters to elect them together. Candidates in KSA elections have been prohibited from slating after the notorious RAF scandals that rocked the association in 2006 and again in 2011 resulted in an alleged misuse of “more than $2 million in student fees,” as reported by The Runner.

In the report, Laufer states that he was given a tip that candidates were “physically campaigning together on election day,” but notes that “greater resources would be needed to attempt to ‘police’ and enforce such activities.”

He also recommends “initiating a meeting to look toward reforming the [election] process in the future to try and avoid some of the pitfalls that have become more common over the last year.”

Aside from slating, other “pitfalls” that Laufer notes in his report include the fact that only 12 of the 34 candidates attended this year’s All Candidates Meeting, which provides information about how to campaign in accordance with the KSA’s rules and regulations regarding elections.

In addition, Laufer highlights significant complications with voting and running for constituency positions. KSA election rules dictate that both candidates and voters for constituency representative positions must belong to that constituency under current KSA rules. For instance, only self-identified women can vote or run for the women’s representative position on KSA Council.

“The constituency positions are certainly being treated by voters as a bit of a farce, as very few

members are limiting their voting to the positions they self-identify with,” Laufer wrote in the report. “The fact that each of the positions is attracting at minimum 800 or 900 voters, when the total number of votes is 1,443, makes this clear.

To address this, he suggests “opening voting to all voters or altering the ballot in some manner to put more psychological pressure on voters to truly vote for constituencies they self identify with.”

David Piraquive, VP External Affairs for the Kwantlen Student Association, was one of the candidates in the election who was concerned about potential slating and the lack of engagement with the rules from others who were running. He suggests that the definition of “apparent slating” in the KSA’s election rules be made more specific in order to make the practice easier for the chief returning officer to identify.

“It’s not clear-cut what is meant by ‘apparent.’ That’s something that we want to fix,” says Piraquive. “There’s discussion about making it a little bit more tough or allowing there to be slates with certain regulations in place. We would probably follow a model similar to SFU, but we want to be very cautious because we know there’s a history with the KSA where slates have been abused.”

In an interview with The Runner, Laufer says that slating and constituency ballot concerns have “started to become more of a pattern” in recent years, but that very specific evidence is needed in order to confirm that it has taken place.

“I totally understand [Piraquive’s] concerns, but it’s hard to nail down these things,” says Laufer. “Evidence of slating could look to be many different things. In this instance, we had a video of some people campaigning together, but we could have a number of witnesses come together and say, ‘We witnessed this together and are reporting this as a complaint.’”

Laufer adds that he’s open to seeing the rules regarding slating change as suggested by Piraquive to “avoid negative situations as best as possible.”