The waiting game
If you’re impatient about the results of late October’s referendum on the University of Regina Students’ Union’s continued membership in the Canadian Federation of Students, you’re not the only one.
Visitors to the Carillon office will typically ask someone if they’ve heard any results yet, and at least one staffer has had the experience of being approached by a faculty member who was curious about the vote’s outcome.
But, like everyone else, the staff of the Carillon doesn’t know what the results are. And, also like everyone else, we have no idea when they’re coming in.
The latter half of October saw campaigners both in favour of and opposed to continued membership in the CFS descend on campus in a flurry of activity. Tables sprung up around the university, campaigners in t-shirts could be found in every hallway, and the Carillon itself held a public forum on the issue, with representatives from both sides of the campaign answering student questions for over an hour. The forum took place on Tuesday, Oct. 26, the first day of voting.
Voting ended two days later, on Oct. 28. The next day, the Referendum Oversight Committee updated its website, www.referendumoversightcommittee.ca, with a letter cryptically explaining that there was “a delay related to the verification of enrolment status of some voters.” Results would be pending the verification of said voters’ eligibility.
“We are hopeful that results will be available shortly,” the letter concluded.
Since then, there’s been silence.
Speculation from several corners – the Carillon included – was that the ballots in question belonged to voters from the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv). Sources revealed to the Carillon that, in fact, several students who were not FNUniv students nevertheless faced issues pertaining to their eligibility; April, a commenter on the Carillon’s website, wrote that interns were told that they may not be eligible to vote.
URSU-appointed ROC member Mike Burton is familiar with the confusion. He says he’s been fielding questions about the referendum ever since it ended.
“I’ve heard a lot out there … that says that the ROC should have [determined who was eligible] in advance of the election,” Burton said. “I was under the impression we had.”
According to Burton, there are five categories of voters whose eligibility is in question: students on education work terms, students on co-op work terms, First Nations University students, eligible voters who couldn’t be verified at the polling station, and ineligible voters.
Burton remains confident that the ROC can come to a consensus on four of those categories. But the question of FNUniv student eligibility seems thornier.
There are two positions on the issue, Burton explained. The first is that FNUniv students, as fee-paying URSU members, are considered members in good standing in URSU’s constitution and are therefore eligible to vote. But Burton also says that FNUniv students during his tenure on URSU paid fees to a separate CFS chapter, Local 90, than the U of R chapter, Local 9.
Burton said that he had outlined the latter position – his position – in an email to the ROC on Oct. 6, and that the discussion was then dropped until Oct. 27, the last day of voting, when the committee was approached with the claim that FNUniv students should be permitted to vote.
“I get the impression that the ROC took my opinion as valid at the point of Oct. 6 … I don’t know why it didn’t become an issue till the 27th. It surprises me that it didn’t, as well.”
CFS representative and ROC member Lucy Watson explained in an email that the ROC had been aware of the issues of eligibility prior to the referendum, and that any final decisions about which votes counted could only be decided once the ROC determined what the U of R’s criteria had been for determining the list of eligible voters.
“It was originally our understanding that the information would be provided to us [by the Registrar’s office] over two weeks ago; however, we have not yet received it,” Watson wrote. “Understanding the criteria used will help resolve some of the outstanding issues.”
As of press time, the Registrar’s office could not be contacted for a response.
While the ROC waits for information from the Registrar’s office, the ballots rest with U of R Security. Until all questions of eligibility are determined they will remain uncounted – another point of contention between the members of the ROC.
“My position has been that we should count those ballots, to know if there’s a material difference that could be made,” Burton said. “We can’t come to a consensus on that and therefore can’t count any ballots yet.”
Watson explained that the CFS representatives felt that would cause some students to feel like their votes hadn’t counted. She wrote that “[CFS] has a responsibility to ensure that no eligible voter is denied the right to vote on the question of continued membership and as the appointees to the Committee, we are doing our best to ensure that that is the case.”
But while the ROC might be at something of an impasse, Burton was quick to stress that the delay in answering these questions has been solely the responsibility of the ROC, rather than the organizations who appointed its members.
“People can critique URSU for how they took a stance on the referendum, but it should be very clear that any holdup in the results is the fault of the ROC, not of URSU – or the CFS, for that matter,” explained Burton. “It’s the fault of the four members of the ROC, myself included.”
Whatever disagreements and compromise they’ll be facing once the ROC meets again, Burton and Watson agree on one thing – they want to work to answer questions of eligibility so that the ballots can get counted and, a month after voting ended, the students of the U of R can finally know whether they will still be members of CFS as of May, 2010.