In less than a week, students will go to the polls for the first time this semester. While the Students' Union by-election does not have the same draw as the upcoming civic or provincial elections or the November election in the United States, it does offer students an opportunity to participate in a democratic process. For many students, this will be the first time they've participated in a democratic process of this scale, and what a time it is to do so.
Up for grabs are five positions that were left unfilled or vacated since the last General Election: two commissioner positions, one each in Events and Op-Fi, and three faculty representative positions, for Engineering, Fine Arts, and Kinesiology. A sixth position, for the Social Work representative, was filled by acclimation by Larry Kirby.
Though by-elections are usually not filled with the drama and intrigue of General Election, this one should not be ignored. Last year's fall by-election exposed almost fatal flaws in the on-line voting system and was mired in allegations of election fraud and improper voting practices. The alleged actions of a few individuals resulted in re- forms to the electoral process that are finally being realized this year. And with the February 2004 General Election causing so much grief--first overturned, then not--there remains interest in SU politics from many quarters.
The perception of diminished importance and the ease at which candidates could become elected in the fall is exactly what makes this by-election important. Without much scrutiny, fringe or extreme candidates or special interests that would be outvoted in the General Election could gain office with the votes of comparatively few supporters. And candidates with irrational positions on the existing administration's policy program could easily slip into power for whatever purpose. Indeed, with (traditionally) fewer voters in the by-election, a vote now counts for more than a vote in the winter.
A new Chief Returning Officer, voting flaws fixed since the appeals from the General Election, and almost record interest from candidates conspire to make this one by-election to be part of.
We can only hope that this election will be as interesting and draw as much interest as the last, and that all students would choose to bear some responsibility for decision-making.