The USC passed a number of motions last semester, ranging from cuts to the rules of fair play to plagiarism penalties that reshape how elections run.
Nathan Szierer, the University Students’ Council’s vice-president governance and finance and a former chief returning officer of the USC’s Elections Governance Committee, outlined these by-law changes in a USC meeting in late September.
The first and most significant of these changes was the removal of the fair play policy, which stated that candidates must campaign in accordance with rules prohibiting slander, sabotage, misrepresentation of fact and more, according to the USC’s by-law document.
According to Szierer, The EGC received over 35 complaints under the fair play policy last year and the majority were thrown out for being “mostly frivolous.” In an interview after council struck the policy Szierer said that he believes that, while removing the rules of fair play leaves room for candidates to engage in more aggressive campaigning techniques, it will give voters more freedom.
“Through the removal of this policy, we are giving the power back to voters and students by leaving the decision up to voters and having the candidates’ actions go through the court of public opinion,” said Szierer.
Additionally, council added a new policy to prohibit the copying or plagiarism of campaign materials from the previous four years. Campaign materials, such as posters and brochures, are different from a candidate’s platform points, which are seen as the ideological basis of a candidate’s campaign, Szierer explained.
Councillors also voted to make small amendments to the elections committee nominations procedure to allow candidates to have their preferred identity reflected on the form and ballot. The USC will also no longer require the nominationation form to be submitted in-person to the USC office.
The finance procedure, which covers candidate spending limits and reimbursements, also underwent minor amendments. The primary changes surround the removal of bond collection, which was previously outlined as a fixed deposit candidates were required to pay prior to opening their campaign to be eligible to run. Additionally, the new amendments clarified what constitutes eligible reimbursement, with language surrounding eligibility requirements being simplified or removed.
The USC hopes to observe and assess the effectiveness of these new policies this election cycle and reevaluate their effectiveness based on community response.
“Overall, these policy changes come from the point of trying to move our elections to be the most fair and democratic that they can be to ensure the right people have the right say and the right voices are heard,” explained Szierer.