In a message sent through their listserv early Tuesday evening, Elections SSMU announced its decision to officially invalidate the election of SSMU President Tariq Khan, who was voted in with a 29.8% majority (1785 students) on March 21.
“It is the conclusion of ElectionsSSMU that Mr. Khan’s campaign did not reflect the spirit of a fair campaign and compromised the integrity of the election, and thus Elections SSMU has made the decision to invalidate Mr. Khan’s election as the President of the Society,” explained Chief Electoral Officer Ben Fung in the email sent to thousands of McGill students on April 1. The timing of the announcement elicited questions as to whether the group was attempting an elaborate – and inappropriate – April Fool’s joke. (Elections SSMU has officially confirmed that this was not the case.)
The decision was made following a lengthy review that included consideration of testimony from Khan, whose termination came as a result of “involvement of individuals external to the Society in [his] campaign; unsolicited messages regarding campaigning sent out to members of the Society; inconsistencies with campaign expenditures; [and] impingement of the spirit of a fair campaign and of the voting process.”
Ultimately, Elections SSMU turned to Article 27.1 of the SSMU By-Law Book I-1, which gives the elections governing body the ability to invalidate the election of a successful candidate “if there have been violations of the By-laws, Constitution, or the Policies of the Society that have adversely affected the outcome of the election.”
As a result, runner-up Courtney Ayukawa, who secured 28.5% of the vote with 1707 student ballots, has been announced as the new President-elect under the electoral by-laws. Ayukawa, in addition to being a Arts & Sciences Representative to SSMU and a Floor Fellow in McGill residence, was officially endorsed by the McGill Tribune, McGill Daily, and Le Delit Francais during her campaign.
Fung assured students that the electoral body will continue to receive and review information and complaints regarding campaigning and conduct appropriate investigation if necessary.
Fung’s message also encouraged students to avoid unsubstantiated statements, rumours, or gossip, especially in light of the stressful elections period of the past year, which seemed rife with accusations and confirmations of candidate misconduct that resulted in the issuance of several official public censures. In order to respect the dignity of all parties, Elections SSMU will be maintaining confidentiality with regards to all details of the investigation.
Despite this, students have chosen to publicly express their discontent with the electoral by-laws, with many questioning why the runner-up is immediately granted the presidential position in a situation such as this one, especially since the vote was split between four candidates. Given that there is no way to determine how Khan’s 1,785 votes would have been dispersed among the remaining candidates, there are concerns surrounding the fairness of Ayukawa’s appointment and the process through which Elections SSMU operates in matters of election invalidation.
“It is important to note that Elections SSMU is ultimately a service and we serve the members of the Society,” Fung concluded. “Elections SSMU welcomes criticism and scrutiny, but more importantly we are open to further information regarding the matters of the election so that we may review our decision.”
Students are encouraged to contact Elections SSMU at email@example.com or (514) 398-6474 with any questions or concerns.