Natural Science Lecture Hall (Photo)

A lecture hall in Natural Science Centre, January 11, 2018.

A ballot error failing to show some science students' presidential and councillor candidates has led to extending the election.

The Faculty of Science's presidential candidates, Hasan Ahmed and Victoria Barroso, as well as its 12 science councillor candidates, were not on the ballots of third- and fourth-year bachelor of medical sciences students for most of Monday morning. Voting in this year's University Students' Council elections ran from 8:00 a.m. Monday until 8:00 p.m. Tuesday.

The Elections Governance Committee released a statement on Tuesday night stating that the 607 students potentially affected by the error could opt into voting again in a special election. Students wanting to opt-in had to respond to emails from the committee by 12:30 p.m. today indicating their interest.

"The [chief returning officer] has made the decision to create a special ballot for those students so they can vote and ensure their votes are counted when electing the new leadership in the Science Faculty," said the statement.

According to the release, Michelle Wang, the committee's chief returning officer, became aware of the issue at 8:52 a.m., with it corrected at 11:30 a.m.

Earlier response

In an emailed response on Monday afternoon, the committee acknowledged the error, but placed onus on voters to check ballots for accuracy and to review their selections.

"Almost every year, there are a number of students whose ballots appear incorrectly, and as such, this disclaimer has been a recurring aspect of the ballot for many years," the statement said.

Through a Facebook response on Tuesday afternoon, the Science Students' Council said they were "extremely disappointed" in the committee's response.

"I really want to emphasize that because of this decision there are students who will NOT [sic] get a voice in who gets elected," wrote Cheryl Fernandes, USC councillor, in an open letter on behalf of the SSC.

Citing a special election to correct a voting error two years ago, Fernandes called on the committee to extend the voting period and allow students with erroneous ballots to vote.

Candidates respond

Ahmed, a third-year medical sciences student, said the majority of his voter base is within the medical sciences program. He believes the balloting error limited the opportunity for a fair and democratic process, and that requiring students to opt-in limits their potential to vote.

"This is still upsetting and voter suppression as it is defined as making it more difficult to vote, not just strictly restricting access," Ahmed said in an email. "This opt-in system for voting is not enough to fix the damage."

Barroso, a biology student whose department peers were seemingly unaffected by the error, said she's happy a special election was called. She said making students opt-in isn't ideal, but the most important thing is that students can vote, and that this was the best solution given the circumstances as explained by the committee.

Concerning pressure for a re-vote, the committee said the circumstances around the USC's individualized ballot software made reopening the vote against the election's best interests.

"The system ensures that individual people who are in charge of running an election cannot influence its outcome by producing favourable results for one particular party," they wrote in the Tuesday press release. "Given these circumstances, it would not be in the best interest of democracy to open up the entire ballot to permit students to change each of their votes for each race."

The special election will run on Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and will include the presidential and science councillor candidates.

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