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illustration by Devin Beauregard

GRADUATE STUDENTS AT the University of Ottawa will go to the polls to elect the executive of the Graduate Students’ Association (GSAÉD) and representatives to the University Senate March 19–21. Nominations closed and the campaigning officially began on Feb. 29.

“The only contest that will be contested is the senate sciences seat,” said Peter Schalk, director general of GSAÉD elections for 2012. “Originally we had two candidates for University Affairs Commissioner, but one of them did drop out. Compared to elections in the past, we have a full slate of candidates this year.”

Schalk believes this is a positive start to the election. Last year there was difficulty filling the positions and the nomination period had to be reopened.

Schalk was confirmed in early January for the position of director general of elections since. He has been preparing for the election, which includes a referendum on the U-Pass this year.

“The big thing we’ve been doing is just preparing the call for candidates, [and] the call for volunteers and scrutineers,” said Schalk.

The referendum question is the same one passed by undergraduate students in February during the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) elections. Schalk believes the U-Pass is a contentious issue because of fee increases and cuts to services.

“The referendum question is definitely something controversial because this was a huge initiative … and the fact that they are [adding] more cost and [making] service cuts makes it a very contentious issue,” said Schalk. “[Roger Guidon campus] has lost a lot of access to transport so I am expecting the question to be a bigger factor on there.”

Schalk is concerned with voter turnout, which for GSAÉD has traditionally been low.

“It was just under 10 per cent [in 2011], but that was up two per cent from the year prior,” said Schalk. “It’s not the greatest turnout for the elections but this is something that has always been a problem with the GSAÉD elections in general.”

In an attempt to combat low turnout ,polling stations will be placed across campuses, including the Roger Guidon campus, to make it easier for students to vote.

Schalk, who was impressed with the SFUO strategy of offering a chance at a prize to students who voted, wants to implement that strategy for this election, though the prize will not be a big as an iPad.

“We don’t have the same amount of funds to offer a similar prize, but right now we have a $100 Chapters gift card that we can give out,” said Schalk. “Basically when people vote they will fill out a ballot with their contact information.”

Schalk is hoping that students will come out and vote and aims to surpass last year’s voter turnout.

 —Christopher Radojewski

For more information on the GSAÉD elections, visit the elections website at Gsaed.ca/elections.