Photo by Mariah Wilson

Two candidates challenge CRO decisions in 2019 SU election, throwing results into question

By Ashar Memon, April 3 2019  —

Two candidates who ran in the 2019 Students’ Union General Election have filed separate appeals to contest decisions made by SU chief returning officers affecting their respective races, the candidates confirmed to the Gauntlet.

Current University of Calgary Board of Governors representative Frank Finley and SU vice-president external Anayat Sidhu said they filed their appeals in March. Both were seeking re-election for their respective positions in the election, which concluded on March 7.

Finley lost his bid for the BOG representative position to Ananya Ayachit, garnering 45 per cent of the vote. He told the Gauntlet that he informed the CROs of alleged violations by Ayachit’s campaign during the election but was rebuffed. Ayachit said she did not violate any election rules.

Sidhu lost her bid for the SU vice-president external role to Sadiya Nazir after she was disqualified by CROs for failing to pay a $25 fine on time. Her name was not included on the ballot.

Both appeals are being adjudicated by the SU Review Board, which handles appeals of decisions made by CROs during the administration of an election. If successful, the appeals could overturn the results of each race.

Hamnah Altaf and Leah Mordo served as co-CROs for this year’s SU General Election. The SU declined to comment on the appeals.

Finley said that he complained to the CROs about alleged violations by Ayachit’s campaign, which he said were based on information told to him by individuals not on his campaign team.

“These concerns involved the persistent violation of clear campaign rules and regulations, specifically in regards to campaign spending and classroom talks,” he said. “I brought some of these issues to the attention of the CROs in writing, though it does not seem any specific action was taken.

“I imagine some may think that I am only submitting an appeal due to ‘sour grapes,’ ” Finley added. “Regardless, I hope that there will be some analysis of how candidates report their expenses and how campaign rules are enforced.”

Asked for comment on Finley’s allegations, Ayachit disputed that she broke election rules.

“Honestly, these claims are baseless. We ran a clean campaign with no warnings or fines incurred,” Ayachit said. “Hopefully Mr. Finley can come to realize this and eventually accept the results.”

Both Finley and Sidhu said they filed their appeals on March 14 — a week after election results were announced.

Sidhu was disqualified from the election by CROs after failing to pay a fine, which was imposed after she used her work computer to print off a copy of the SU election booklet — a move that allegedly violated election bylaws, which prohibit the use of SU resources for campaigning.

Sidhu said that violation did not provide any advantage to her campaign or compromise the integrity of the election and should not have resulted in a disqualification.

“The sanction was clearly disproportionate to the cited violation,” she said. “It is demonstrably clear, unfair and unjust that the simple mistake of printing a nomination form from the wrong printer, and human error in missing the payment of a minor fine, result in the wholesale termination of a campaign.

“I truly gave it my all when I was re-running to fulfil the role. It saddens me to say that I was disqualified by the CROs for not paying a $25 printing fine,” Sidhu said, adding that she likely would have paid the fine on time if her official agent was copied in communication.

Sadiya Nazir eventually won the SU vice-president external position with 76 per cent of the vote against her remaining competitor. Nazir declined to comment.

If the Review Board approves Finley’s appeal, it could disqualify Ayachit from the race, making Finley BOG representative. It was not immediately clear what would happen if Sidhu’s appeal was successful, since her name wasn’t included on the ballot.

Decisions made by the Review Board can be appealed by any student if they are dissatisfied with the results or appeals process. In that case, the issue would be taken up by the SU Tribunal, which has the power to overturn or amend decisions made by the Review Board.

According to the SU’s website, both the Tribunal and Review Board operate independently from the rest of the SU.



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