Here’s the good news about AUSU’s recent by-election: the results are in, and the new councillors were chosen by a record turnout of more than 1,500 voters. The strange news? The ballot choice that resonated with the highest percentage of voters was … no one.
Before we take a look at the numbers, let’s send a huge round of thanks to everyone who ran in the election. Just as important are the 1,580 AU students who took the time to get involved, read about their candidates, and logged in to vote. Those numbers are a big increase over the usual 1 per cent of students who cast votes to choose their council. This by-election saw more than 6 per cent of eligible AUSU members participate?a big improvement.
So who did AU students choose as their six new councillors? You can read the complete, certified election results online, but here are the successful candidates with the number of votes they each received. Congratulations to Colleen Doucette (722), Tamra Ross (630), Brandon Simmons (553), Philip Kirkbride (489), Laura Zhu (476), and Pierre Plamondon (468).
But what, you might ask, was the ballot option that received the highest percentage of voters?a remarkable 16.1 per cent? It was the choice to abstain. To cast a vote for no one on the ballot at all.
That might not seem like an especially high number of abstentions. After all, it only represents 255 actual voters, but That’s approaching one in five?students who took the time to go to the website, log in, and then cast a vote for no one.
Why is that number so high?
It’s impossible to know without asking them, but one possibility is that students wanted to express a low level of confidence in their current union and its leadership. The past few months have seen questions arise over executive pay raises, broken bylaws, a request for a forensic audit, and even a vote at the AGM to have the executive members step down (which they refused to do).
Another possibility is that students who voted to abstain were confused by the ballot. Voters could choose up to six candidates but could also choose as few as one or two. They might have thought they had to choose the Abstain button if they hadn’t selected the full six names. However, the confirmation page would have alerted them to the fact that they hadn’t chosen anyone, so that reduces the likelihood that all 255 abstainers (or even a majority of them) were confused.
Whatever the reason, it might be worth setting up a poll on the AUSU homepage to find out. Especially with a full AUSU election coming up just a few months from now.
Overall, though, the by-election numbers really are good news. High voter turnout means students are engaged. A newly replenished council, with all seats filled, brings fresh ideas, greater oversight, and more voices working on behalf of students. For council and students alike, that can only be a win-win situation.
So thanks to everyone who voted, and a warm welcome to all the new AUSU councillors!
S.D. Livingston is the author and creator of the Madeline M. Mystery Series for kids, as well as several books for older readers. Visit her website for information on her writing.