Despite less than five per cent turnout UOSU’s elections committee chair considers by-election a success
The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) released the certified results of its 2021 by-election on Friday, Oct. 16. The results were in favour of electing all three uncontested candidates on the ballot: Sana Almansour for UOSU’s equity commissioner, Chloe Bergeron for the UOSU Board of Directors’ (BOD) engineering director, and Harneet Cheema for the University of Ottawa Senate as the health science representative.
With a 4.5 per cent participation rate, UOSU election committee chair Henry Mann shared that the committee viewed the by-election as a success. For Mann, the success of the by-election was a matter of organization and meeting deadlines as a committee.
However, Mann did mention the potential of an ad hoc committee for communication and engagement, which is intended to increase turnout for the commonly low participation of by-elections.
“There are also initiatives we’re looking at in terms of greater candidate engagement, in terms of appealing to people to run for office, and appealing to voters to participate in the elections in that way,” said Mann in an interview with the Fulcrum.
Despite efforts to increase voter turnout, votes remained low for this by-election, with Almansour receiving just 1,278 votes out of a possible 36,855 voting members. Bergeron and Cheema were each only eligible to be voted in by members of the faculty they were trying to represent.
Mann adds that the current committee is hoping that by focusing on governance and organizational tasks, they will be able to give the next committee more space to focus on improving civic participation.
Each candidate will be ratified and appointed in the next week, with Cheema scheduled to be ratified on Oct. 18, and Almansour and Bergeron on Oct. 24.
The by-election was entirely virtual with all campaigning being kept to social media and other virtual spaces. Mann noted that the UOSU election committee hopes for a hybrid campaign process in the upcoming general election.
“As of the most recent discussions of the election committee on that matter, we are looking at having an in person election in the general elections,” said Mann. “We would hope to do that depend[ing] on the regulations prevailing at that time, we will need to make that decision, probably in about mid-January.”
The UOSU elections committee will meet three or four more times before the nomination period for the general election, which begins in January 2022. Mann said that any major governmental work, including any amendments to the elections code or constitution, will take place during the November meeting. Mann encourages students to look into positions they might be interested in ahead of the upcoming general election.
“The issues that we’ve discussed within our union, and other things that will come up on campus this year that we have yet to know of, these issues are not going away,” said Mann.
“We need strong and committed student leaders to address them and to work not only at improving our organization to better serve students, but really take those initiatives to other levels of decision making and strengthen the student voice, and this is one of the best ways we have.”
Mann thanked the members of the elections committee, the chief electoral officer George Mogambi, and UOSU engagement staff for helping get this by-election over the finish line.