Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Official results posted

A quick epilogue: official results have been posted on the CRO's website. Interestingly, a breakdown of the voting totals of each academic unit is also available, but it does not reveal the percentage turnout of each individual academic unit, nor does it reveal levels of electoral support for the different slates by academic unit.

The official results are different from the preliminary results only in the totals of votes received at the Bannatyne Avenue and Selkirk Avenue campuses. Their recorded numbers of cast ballots are now much more in line with traditional turnout levels. Nothing here changes my analysis in any way.

The voting totals of each academic unit are worth posting:

Academic Unit Votes %age
University 1 714 32.6%
Science 366 16.7%
Arts 314 14.3%
Engineering 171 7.8%
Management 145 6.6%
Env., Earth, and Resources 73 3.3%
Pharmacy 59 2.7%
Extended Education 50 2.3%
Kines. & Rec. Mgmt. 41 1.9%
Human Ecology 37 1.7%
Music 35 1.6%
Education 29 1.3%
Agriculture 29 1.3%
Law 27 1.2%
Architecture 27 1.2%
Nursing 22 1.0%
Fine Arts 19 0.9%
Social Work 16 0.7%
Medicine 8 0.4%
School of Agriculture 6 0.3%
Medical Rehabilitation 3 0.1%

The CRO mislabels the Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources, but we'll forgive her.

University 1 (the university's academic unit for nearly all first-year students) is voting in much higher numbers than they used to. In sum, the "Big 5" units (U1, Arts, Science, Engineering, and Management) represent 78% of all votes cast- a huge margin. Pharmacy had an excellent showing as well, almost certainly due to Pierce Cairns being a student of that faculty.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Analysis (part 3)

My analysis in most cases will not include either the Inner City campus or the Bannatyne campus. Here's why:
  1. Student life on those two campus' is something I know very little about. I'm not going to pretend to be able to understand how they vote.
  2. Here are the total vote numbers from those two campuses.
    • Inner-city: 0 votes (at a cost of $216 to run the poll).
    • Bannatyne campus: 9 votes (at a cost of $648, or $72 per vote).

How does this year compare to last year in terms of... turnout?

What I found most startling about this year's election was the turnout level. Last year, with every executive position being uncontested, turnout reached 7.46%. Not great, but what can you expect when there's no one contesting any position?

This year, with between 2-3 candidates for each position, it was only 9.71%.

At first glance, that's a very poor sign. An increased number of slates should mean increased campaigning, yet not many more people turned out to vote. At many polling stations, turnout actually dropped considerably.

Poll Turnout '08 Turnout '07
University Centre
896 856
Fletcher Argue (Arts, etc.) 496 401
Armes (Science) 294 276
Pembina Hall (Tache/Speechly Res.) 231 n/a
Drake (Management) 98 135
Frank Kennedy 83 72
University College (Residence, Law) 55 94
Agriculture 39 53
Bannatyne (Medicine, Dentistry) 9 72
Inner City (Social Work) 0 25

We can also compare total voter turnout between this year and last:

Turnout '08 Turnout '07
Total votes cast 2,201 1,984
Total possible voters ~ 22,667 26,585
Voter turnout (%) 9.71% 7.46%

There are a few things to consider when looking at these numbers:
  • Turnout did increase. Details on changes in turnout can be speculated on by looking at polling booth-specific numbers. Tache/Speechly students voted in droves at their polling booth; was this an increase from last year, or did they simply vote at the nearby booth instead of voting elsewhere?
  • The large drop in total possible voters is due to the Graduate Students forming their own union. This change occurred in the face of gradual increases in the total undergraduate population over the past ten years or so.
  • It's my understanding that, relative to undergraduate students, graduate students were not as likely to vote in UMSU elections. I can only find one year of data (2003) where 69 graduate students voted. I can tell you that there were around 3,500 graduate students at that time, which works out to about 2% turnout. If that trend was consistent with other years, all other things being equal turnout should have increased this year.
In sum, three factors are at play that should increase turnout relative to total voters:
  • an increase in the number of candidates, which increases campaigning, information levels, number of supporters, etc.
  • an extra poll booth in a residence
  • the removal of a group of traditionally apathetic voters
In spite of this, turnout increased only marginally. Why? I'd be getting paid to analyze elections if I had all the answers, but it's partly to do with organization. While there were other slates challenging Students United, they were not well organized. At no time did I witness any campaigning in the hallways by any slate but Student United, which was especially crucial during the voting period. I'll flesh this out later on in this post.

I've heard someone express that it could be due to a lack of pressing issues, but I find a lot of evidence contradicting this. I've never heard tuition discussed in an election as much as it was this year. The three slates offered three separate and distinct policy positions on the tuition freeze, the engineers had recently voted to increase their own fees, the university had recently increased ancillary fees for all students, international students face dramatic differential fees, and we just experienced a provincial election where two major parties advocated lifting the freeze. If not tuition, then student groups. Student group members vote in large numbers, and one slate was actively advocating radical changes in student group funding.

How does this year compare to last year in terms of... politics?

I've previously argued that Students United carries the banner of the current UMSU administration. I've heard nary one person criticize this remark and I challenge someone to find a relevant policy difference between the two. That said, it is remarkable at how steady support has been over the last two years for candidates of their political stripe.

Here's a breakdown of last year's vote, not including spoiled ballots (note that I have summed together all votes for each executive position):

Choice '07 Votes %age
6487 74.1%
2273 25.9%

And here is this year's division:

Choice '08 Votes %age
SU 7287 70.2%
RC or CS 3090 29.8%

Support for and against candidates of this political stripe has remained remarkably constant, despite the fact that last year was merely a "Yes"/"No" ballot, and this year there were three slates espousing very different policy positions.

Consider the change (or lack thereof) that occurred by faculty:

Poll Yes '07 SU '08
Drake (Management) 80.6% 54.4%
Armes (Science) 78.2% 64.0%
University College (Residence, Law) 80.0% 71.0%
Agriculture 58.5% 50.0%
University Centre 71.1% 68.0%
Frank Kennedy 66.2% 68.1%
Fletcher Argue (Arts, etc.) 76.6% 75.8%

Poll No '07 CS/RC '08
Drake (Management) 19.4% 45.6%
Armes (Science) 21.8% 36.0%
University College (Residence, Law) 20.0% 29.0%
Agriculture 41.5% 50.0%
University Centre 28.9% 32.0%
Frank Kennedy 33.8% 31.9%
Fletcher Argue (Arts, etc.) 23.4% 24.2%

There are some limitations to this kind of analysis, but consider how similar some of those numbers are (in the "Change" column, positive values refer to a change in voting preference away from the Sran/Sopotiuk political viewpoint):

Poll Change
Drake (Management) 26.2%
Armes (Science) 14.3%
University College (Residence, Law) 9.0%
Agriculture 8.5%
University Centre 3.1%
Frank Kennedy -1.9%
Fletcher Argue (Arts, etc.) 0.9%

The poll at Drake (and Armes to a lesser extent) exhibited some considerable change against left-leaning candidates; but, if you recall from my earlier analysis, it was the polls at University Centre and Fletcher Argue that accounted for over 63% of total voter turnout, and they hardly changed at all.

My grizzled vantage point

To complete my analysis, I will sketch my explanation for the current state of affairs in UMSU student politics.

Of the population of voting students, 20%-25% are solidly against the Sran/Sopotiuk political viewpoint, going even so far as to vote "No" in a "Yes"/"No" election. And on this campus, "Yes"/"No" elections almost universally end up with the candidates being elected, making last year's 25.9% "No" vote all the more startling.

The rest of the students are divided into two camps:
  • those solidly in favour of the Sran/Sopotiuk viewpoint (about one-third of students), and
  • those students who will vote if persuaded to do so, but are otherwise not drawn to any particular point of view.
As of the last few elections, it has been the slates representing the Sran/Sopotiuk political viewpoint that have captured those "independent" votes through their volunteers and comparatively better organization. Only their slates have missed class, attracted large numbers of volunteers (especially those with knowledge of and experience in UMSU elections), produced banners and high-quality campaign literature, and actively campaigned each day prior to and during the voting period.

Each of these well-organized slates have won a strong majority (not just a plurality) of the vote in each election since 2005. They represent the only viable political machine left on campus. Viable slates are formed long before the nominations period begins. The Regressives only fielded two candidates, and the presidential candidate for Clean Slate himself revealed that they formed a full slate more by accident than by design.

Until they are challenged by an equally organized team, slates representing the status quo will continue to do well during these elections. Things will change sooner or later; sometimes it takes a while, but the pendulum eventually swings back the other way.

This will be my last post unless something dramatic comes up in the next few days. Congratulations to all candidates. Readers looking to contact me can do so via Facebook.


Dana Gregoire

Analysis (part 2)

My analysis in most cases will not include either the Inner City campus or the Bannatyne campus. Here's why:
  1. Student life on those two campus' is something I know very little about. I'm not going to pretend to be able to understand how they vote.
  2. Here are the total vote numbers from those two campuses.
    • Inner-city: 0 votes (at a cost of $216 to run the poll).
    • Bannatyne campus: 9 votes (at a cost of $648, or $72 per vote).

Where did Students United draw their support?

I predicted Students United would win the election and would garner 55% of the popular vote. They beat that by about 10-15 points, taking votes that I thought would be spread across the other two slates.

Pemb. Hall 83.4% 89.3% 84.8% 83.4% 92.3%
Fl. Arg. 72.1% 80.0% 77.9% 75.5% 73.4%
U. Coll. 67.9% 74.5% 70.0% 70.0% 72.5%
Fr. Kennedy 63.6% 72.6% 70.3% 65.8% 68.4%
U. Centre 62.5% 72.3% 69.0% 69.8% 66.5%
Armes 58.7% 67.6% 65.3% 63.4% 64.9%
Drake 55.4% 54.9% 59.6% 53.8% 48.4%
Agriculture 42.1% 57.1% 55.9% 52.8% 43.2%

Their level of support was, on the one hand peculiar given last year's results (which I will address in part 3,) and on the other hand deserved given their hard work at campaigning.

I predicted they would do well in all residences, Arts, Science, Kinesiology and Recreation Management and Social Work. I was accurate in most cases, although their showing in Science was, relative to their performance in other faculties, poorer than I expected.

In particular, look at Sid Rashid's results in Pembina Hall: 92.3%. Residence students always vote in larger proportions than commuting students, and they like to support other residence students. And given Rashid's charisma, it's not surprising that they backed him.

Astute readers will recall my describing Mitch Tripple as a campaigning whirlwind. Perhaps as a result of his efforts, he beat his slate mates by about two to eight percentage points at most polling stations, an exception being at Drake, where his opponent was campaigning heavily.

Where did Clean Slate draw their support?

I foresaw Clean Slate winning a quarter of the vote, with substantial support in Management and Engineering. It's hard to tell where Engineers voted, but they probably turned up mostly at University Centre and Science.

Because the Regressive Conservatives cut into Clean Slate support, I'm going to display two tables: one for positions with three-way competition, and one for positions with only a two-way race.

The three-way races:

Poll (CS) Pres VPSS
Agriculture 44.7% 35.1%
Armes 33.1% 27.2%
Drake 27.2% 30.5%
U. Centre 25.4% 23.1%
Fr. Kennedy 24.7% 21.1%
Fl. Arg. 21.4% 18.2%
U. Coll. 18.9% 15.7%
Pemb. Hall 13.4% 6.3%

And the two-way races:

Drake 45.1% 40.4% 46.2%
Agriculture 42.9% 44.1% 47.2%
Armes 32.4% 34.7% 36.6%
U. Centre 27.7% 31.0% 30.2%
Fr. Kennedy 27.4% 29.7% 34.2%
U. Coll. 25.5% 30.0% 30.0%
Fl. Arg. 20.0% 22.1% 24.5%
Pemb. Hall 10.7% 15.2% 16.6%

Clean Slate had a strong showing at Drake and in Agriculture. Their better-than-expected showing in Science was probably due in part to Troy Unrau being a student in the FEER.

Analysis (part 1)

My analysis in most cases will not include either the Inner City campus or the Bannatyne campus. Here's why:
  1. Student life on those two campuses is something I know very little about. I'm not going to pretend to be able to understand how they vote.
  2. Here are the total vote numbers from those two campuses:
    • Inner-city: 0 votes (at a cost of $216 to run the poll);
    • Bannatyne campus: 9 votes (at a cost of $648, or $72 per vote).

Who came to vote?

I find this very interesting. Just a few polls account for a very large majority of the voting population.

Poll Turnout %age
Univ. Centre (2 polls) 896 40.7%
Fletcher Argue (Arts, etc.) 496 22.5%
Armes (Science) 294 13.4%
Pembina Hall (Tache/Speechly Res.) 231 10.5%
Drake (Management) 98 4.5%
Frank Kennedy 83 3.8%
University College (Residence, Law) 55 2.5%
Agriculture 39 1.8%
Bannatyne (Medicine, Dentistry) 9 0.4%
Inner-City (Social Work)

Polls at University Centre and Fletcher Argue alone account for over 63% of turnout. Add Armes and Pembina Hall, and you account for 87.1% of all voters. Especially remarkable is the anaemic turnout at Bannatyne and the Inner-City campus

Where did the Regressive Conservatives draw their support?

This slate was something of a wild card. I speculated earlier that they might poll well in management, but not much better elsewhere.

Poll RC (Pres)
Drake (Management) 16.33%
Agriculture 12.82%
University College (Residence, Law) 12.73%
University Centre (2 polls) 11.61%
Frank Kennedy 10.84%
Armes (Science) 7.82%
Fletcher Argue (Arts, etc.) 6.25%
Pembina Hall (Tache/Speechly Res.) 3.03%

Poll RC (VPSS)
Agriculture 20.51%
Drake (Management) 20.20%
University College (Residence, Law) 10.91%
University Centre (2 polls) 9.81%
Frank Kennedy 9.52%
Fl. Arg (Arts, etc.)
Armes (Science) 7.51%
Pembina Hall (Tache/Speechly Res.) 1.29%

So in this regard, I was on the money. Management (and the historically right-leaning Aggies) came out to support the Regressives.

It's important to note that they did better in Management and Agriculture than they did elsewhere, but they were still beaten by the other two slates by significant margins. In economics terms, the Regressives find their comparative advantage at these polling stations. Also of note, these two polls accounted for only 6.3% of total turnout. Even had they won every vote at these stations, they only would have gained a hundred ballots or so.

Posting delay

Analysis posts to come soon; my apologies for the delay.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Preliminary results

Around 5:00am, the CRO posted preliminary results.

Congratulations to Students United, whose candidates won each of their contested positions by comfortable margins. Voter turnout was an unimpressive 9.71%.

Analysis to follow.

Reg. Cons. 9.7%

Clean Slate 24.5% 25.9% 28.5% 29.6% 21.2%
Students United 65.7% 74.1% 71.5% 70.4% 69.4%

UPDATE: Official results have been posted. There are a few small changes, mostly due to updated ballot counts at the Bannatyne Avenue and Selkirk Avenue campuses.

Reg. Cons. 9.7%

Clean Slate 24.6% 26.1% 28.6% 29.6% 21.3%
Students United 65.7% 73.9% 71.4% 70.4% 69.2%

Friday, March 7, 2008

Voting update

Just heard that, as of 1:39am, they're still counting the ballots. I'm going to bed. Comment away.

UPDATE: Erm, still counting at 2:16am.

God bless those poll clerks and scrutineers.

There and back, and still nothing

All quiet on my end. I've never seen an UMSU election take this long. Perhaps this has something to do with the voting problems. Email me if you have any insights.

Rogers Wireless Message

I'll be out tonight, so I'm hoping Blogger's fandangled technology works and you can all see this post.

Sent from my Rogers Wireless Cellular Phone

Voting problems

I'm just learning of some problems with the voting process. A number of students who have gone to vote were told by poll clerks they had already voted. If true, this would be a serious problem with the electoral process and something the CRO should be very concerned with.

I look forward to the Manitoban's coverage of this in their next issue.

Numbers from last year

Special thanks to a source who sent me last year's election totals by polling booth. I've crunched the numbers and sorted them according to the proportion of "Yes" cast relative to the "No" votes cast. Keep in mind that the Sran slate received, on average, about 74% "Yes" votes and 26% "No" votes (I'm factoring out the impact of spoiled ballots.)

So, from highest to lowest:

Drake (Mgmt) 80.6% 19.4%
U. College 80.0% 20.0%
Bannatyne 79.1% 20.9%
Armes (Science) 78.2% 21.8%
Flet. Arg. (Arts) 76.6% 23.4%
UC (2 booths) 71.1% 28.9%
F. Kennedy 66.2% 33.8%
Inner City 63.8% 36.2%
Agriculture 58.5% 41.5%

Well this is interesting. The most supportive voters showed up at the polling booth nearest to students in the Faculty of Management. This would defy conventional logic - don't management students lean to the right? But the Sran slate's Vice-President (Internal) candidate was a student in Management. And this year, the only candidate running for any slate from Management is part of... Students United! Leanne Rajotte is pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce with a major in Supply Chain Management and Logistics (whatever that is.) It's also true that Management students rejected a proposed tuition increase in 2003, so maybe they're not so uniformly right-leaning.

So will we see a left-leaning slate pull out the win in (arguably, but arguably not at all) one of the university's most right-leaning schools? Personally, I don't think so. Last year's candidate from Management was a well-known member of the Commerce Students' Association Council, while Rajotte is not on Council at all. Also, voting in a "Yes"/"No" election is a different situation than an election with multiple slates.

Also of note is the importance of the aggie vote. Since the Faculty of Agriculture has a larger-relative-to-other-faculties proportion of students from rural Manitoba, and since individuals from rural areas trend to the right, one might expect the aggies to be critical of left-leaning slates. And last year, they certainly were - no faculty voted "No" in higher proportions.

The Inner City campus also voted "No" in high proportions. What you don't see here is that this campus also spoiled a proportionally high number of ballots. I'm not sure what to make of that.

Voting just ended by my clock. The waiting begins.

How it will go down

I just spoke with the CRO, and here's how things will go down tonight.

Prior to 6:00pm, all scrutineers must be present at the location at which ballots will be counted. They must also fill out and submit a scrutineer form.

At 6:00pm, voting ends. Poll clerks will pack up their ballots and bring them to the counting location.

Once counting is complete, the CRO will post preliminary results. After the appeals period expires, official results will be posted. The official results (and hopefully the preliminary results) will also include a breakdown of voting at each individual poll booth.

When I asked if I could attend, the CRO told me that since I was neither a poll clerk nor a scrutineer, I could not. She could not confirm that the bylaws forbade me from being there (since they don't) but it was "how she was running things" or something to that effect.

Speaking of bylaws, here's another one they almost certainly won't be able to follow. Bylaw 1008:

14. A record shall be kept of voter turnout in UMSU general elections, by-elections and referenda, for each faculty, residence and college.

15. Election results (including the final vote count for each candidate or side) as well as turnout shall be made publicly available to Members of the Union, and results of elections and referenda (including sample ballots) shall be archived by the Union and accessible to Members.

Yea, that doesn't happen anymore. If you went to the UMSU desk today and asked for last year's results, they would stare at you like you had four heads.

Voter turnout review

With just a few hours left before the polls close, let's take a look back at my first post, which explored the topic of voter turnout on campus. I've corrected some of my earlier errors and I've created a few tables to show trends over the past decade or so. I've also divided the elections into three (highly subjective and detail-skimming) eras.

Era 1: Pres/VP ticket; 14-day campaign period

This era was generally characterized by higher voter turnout numbers.

* I define "Viable Slate" as a slate that received a substantial proportion of the total number of votes relative to the amount received by the winning slate. For example, in 2002, although Louizos/Kuzie ran against two other slates, they effectively ran unopposed, and you can see what happened to turnout in the next section.

I don't have data on numbers of slates for the 1997 election. One could research them at the Manitoban office.

Era 2: Pres/VP ticket; shortened campaign period

This era saw a drop in turnout, and a changing of the guard.

** I'm relying on memory of the number of slates that ran against Fletcher in 2000. Again, the Maniotban archives would help any interested readers find solid numbers.

To be clear, I do not attribute the drop in turnout to the shortening of the campaign period. Far more relevant is the increase in enrollment at the university, which primarily occured at the first-year level. Since first-year students are the least likely to be involved in or knowledgeable of the elections process, overall turnout fell. This is borne out when the election statistics from this era are reviewed: University1 voter turnout was typically lower than the campus average.

Era 3: Pres/4-VP ticket

This era has seen a drop in competition in elections.

It's not easy to find five people who will run together in an UMSU election. The results are displayed clearly.

Another aspect of this era is a change to the election regulations such that it is no longer necessary to have a polling booth in each faculty, college and residence. Thus, statistical data is no longer available that shows how students in a given unit voted. General inferences can be made; for example, voters in the Drake Building are probably mostly students of the Faculty of Management, but the Manitoban does not have data on individual polling stations in this era.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Adventures in polling

My observations thus far in the voting period have done nothing to dissuade me from my initial predictions.

Wednesday, I noticed Mitch Tripple, the Students United candidate for VPA, intercepting students near the polling station in Fletcher Argue. He was a veritable whirlwind of campaigning: he grabbed their attention, directed them to the polling booth and instructed them as his feelings of who is the best slate. No other slate was around.

In University Centre, I walked by three other three other SU candidates. I also saw Ben Singer strolling by from CS, but I didn't see him intercept anyone.

I resolved to return to Arts Thursday to photograph the candidates in action.

Alas, I could only find Sid Rashid, SU candidate for VPSS, who was not nearly as whirlwind-ish, preferring to chat up students. Actually, they were all female students. But I'm not judging.

Someone had also erected a cutesy display with SU gear.

The polling booth was located in Fletcher Argue, across from the Greenhouse Cafe. I observed a girl in a foreign accent directing another student to vote for Students United and pointing to their posters, but she didn't seem to be a volunteer. Perhaps she had been smitten by Rashid.

What have your observations been?

Aboriginal community candidate disqualified

Less than half of the five campus-wide student community seats will be elected during this election period. Jordan Wilson, who was the only candidate for the Aboriginal community representative position, has been disqualified for not attending daily briefings.

There has been one other punishment enacted by the CRO for failure to attend the daily briefings. The Regressive Conservative slate and what few volunteers they have will be unable to campaign from 10:00am until 6:00pm today, except for their posters and website. This punishment is more of a formality as I don't believe they're doing much to campaign other than putting up posters and their website.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

LGBTT* community candidate withdraws

Of the five "community" seats on UMSU Council, only one of them had more than one candidate vying for the seat. Now, that position too is being acclaimed.

Daniel Draper, who had served a single term last year on Council as the LGBTT* representative, is now listed as having withdrawn. Challenger Denis Courcelles will presumably be acclaimed.

Of the other four positions, two have been acclaimed (pending "Yes" votes,) no nominations were received for the international student representative, and the sole candidate for women's representatives had earlier withdrawn her candidacy.

UPDATE: Below is a copy of the letter Daniel sent the CRO. I've emphasized the important parts for those who prefer to skim:

Statement from the Office of the LGBTT* Community Representative on Candidacy in the Current UMSU General Election

March 5, 2008

Over the past little while, I have been giving a lot of thought to my candidacy in the current UMSU General Election which ends this Friday. It is my belief that I have represented my community well over the past year by advocating on their behalf at UMSU Council and in the community. This is work that I will continue until the changeover that will occur in late April.

The campaign this year has made me realize that I am not as passionate about offically representing the LGBTT* community as I was when I was elected to this position one year ago. Although I will continue to work for the rights of our community over the remainder of my term of office, I no longer believe that I am the best candidate for the position of LGBTT* Community Representative. That is why, effective immediately, I am withdrawing my candidacy for the position of LGBTT* Community Representative for the upcoming Academic Year.

These are positions that require an extremely high amount of involvement with the University community, not just the Rainbow Pride Mosaic and other student service groups. They can be extremely high stress and are, at times, extremely frustrating. As such, they are very draining on the individuals who take them on if done properly

It is my belief that Mr. Denis Courcelles will fulfill the position of LGBTT* Community Representative at least as successfully as I have over the past year. He possesses the energy, drive and connections to do the a fantastic job for our community at UMSU. With proper guidance and development over the next two months, Denis will be more than ready to take on this role when he assumes office May 1, 2008. It is my sincere hope that the community will embrace Denis and support him to do the best work he can for our community.

Having said all of this, I will not be dropping out of University political life entirely. I have been offered another opportunity in another faculty to take on other responsibilities, an opportunity which I intend to pursue with the same enthusiasm over the next school year. I look forward to working with whichever candidates are elected to the UMSU Executive for next year in addition to Denis as they shape the face of our Students’ Union. It is sure to be an amazing year.

I wish all of the remaining candidates luck in the remainder of the election.

Thank you.


Daniel Draper

And all eyes turn to the executive elections.

Voting locations - get going!

Why are you reading this blog when you could be voting? Get going, and bring your student card.

On 05, 06 and 07 March, you can vote at any of the following locations from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.:
  • Agriculture Atrium
  • Armes Tunnel
  • Brodie Centre
  • Drake Fishbowl
  • Fletcher Argue in front of tunnel
  • Frank Kennedy corridor
  • William Norrie Centre*
  • Pembina Hall
  • University Centre across from Tim Hortons
  • University College
* Take note - students at the William Norrie Centre (on Selkirk Avenue) can only vote on 05 March.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Final analysis and predictions

The campaign period is just about over, so it's time to reflect and make some ridiculous predictions. This blog strictly follows the Gregg Easterbrook/TMQTM prediction policy: All predictions wrong or your money back!

Students United

In my opinion, this slate is the clear front-runner. Here's why they've been able to pull away:
  • They are winning the poster war in design, number, and coverage
  • Their candidates are missing classes and are constantly present in University Centre and the Arts Complex
  • They have an army of volunteers
  • Their candidates draw support from a swath of different faculties.
  • One of their candidates, Sid Rashid, is a long-time student at a campus residence, and residence students vote in droves.
  • They are the only slate in support of the tuition freeze, while the anti-freeze vote will be split between the other two slates.
  • They are the candidates of the establishment, even if they're only being supported informally.
On the downside, there's some question of the readiness of their presidential candidate given that he is a University 1 student. Because voter turnout is higher among older students than among younger ones, and older students are more likely to see this as a problem than younger ones, they'll probably lose a few votes over this. But from a big picture perspective, I would be very surprised to see them lose this election. Expect to see them do well in all residences, Arts, Science, Music, Kinesiology and Recreation Management, and Social Work.

Projected vote: 55%

Clean Slate

Clean Slate represents the primary opposition to Students United. They're the only other slate running five candidates, and their posters and website look have a professional look. They've been hampered by an apparent lack of volunteers, especially knowledgeable ones. Their posters went up late and their leaflets were confiscated after a complaint was successfully lodged against them. They are also attending class while campaigning and so have not been as present in the hallways as Students United.

They should be looking for votes from faculties that are historically critical of CFS and candidates that reflect their policies, but this will be challenging given that four of their five candidates are from the Faculty of Arts, which traditionally swings to the left. Expect support from Engineering and Management, but not much else.

Projected vote: 25%

Regressive Conservatives

This slate is something of a wild card. They're not running a full team, they have few volunteers, they're working with a shortened campaign period, their poster and website are very amateurish, and they're running what is perceived to be a right-wing campaign on campus. I mean, It's one thing to run a right-leaning campaign relative to the other slates, but they're selling themselves as Republican-Party-right-wing on a Canadian campus.

But they have eye-catching posters, and what their supporters lack in numbers, they more than make up in enthusiasm and dedication.

You'll note that my description of their campaign has that it is perceived as right-wing. In fact, their policies are better descibed as libertarianism (think Ron Paul) than, say, the Conservative Party. For sake of comparison, when current Conservative MP Steven Fletcher was UMSU President, he did not pledge to slash UMSU's budget by withholding funding from student groups. He reached out to select groups that would support him, and it didn't hurt to have Engineering turn out in droves.

Because of their blatant antagonism towards the people that are likely to vote, I can't see them doing well amongst anyone but their most die-hard supporters. They might do well with management. Maybe.

Projected vote: 20%

Final Thoughts

If you support one of the above slates that I've written off, then get out there and prove me wrong! Don't stay away from the polls because your team appears to be doing poorly. Elections frequently have surprise endings.

Or, I could be completely off in my predictions; this could be a very close race decided by just a few dozen people in which individual votes make a huge difference.

Protesting too much, or too little

I tried and tried to make a table with information about complaints, but I'm relegated to making a brief summary. As summaries, these don't reflect the whole story, which you can seek out at the CRO's complaints page.

Complaints are an important, but unfortunate, part of any campaign. Drawing up complaints takes time, energy and specialized knowledge. If you don't have any volunteers with knowledge of the various by-laws, you probably won't bother with many complaints. Making them too regularly about insignificant issues will draw the CRO's ire. And in at least a few cases, slates have been outright disqualified from the elections (only to be reinstated - see below.)

The CRO's rulings on complaints can be appealed to the EDIE Board. Back in the glory days, the Board was chaired by a retired justice (and the CRO was a former election observer, not just student UMSU staff) and the other seats were held by students. Many an EDIE Board session have gone late into the night, including two that reversed disqualifications on the eve of the voting period. Riveting.

This year, there have been six complaints. First, three complains about pre-campaigning:

  1. 20 Feb: Students United complained that Clean Slate had made some moves on Facebook that could be construed as campaigning through Facebook; the CRO issued a warning.

  2. 24 Feb: Students United reported that Pierce Cairns (Regressive Conservatives) had announced his intention to run to his entire class during a Pharmacy lecture; the CRO declared that Cairns would be penalized by forcing him to wait 24 hours into the campaign period before he could begin his own campaign.

  3. 26 Feb: The CRO found that Clean Slate had uploaded their website to a private server prior to the start of the campaign period; a warning was issued.

And three campaign-period complaints:

  1. 28 Feb: Clean Slate's campaign manager complained about improper use of tables by Students United. The CRO sustained the complaint but noted that her (the CRO's) instructions on the topic were not clear; a warning was issued.

  2. 29 Feb: Somebody, quite possibly affiliated with Students United but I can't confirm this, complained that Clean Slate's leaflets were not directly linked to an individual. (For those familiar with this peculiar rule, posters and other printed materials must be directly attributed to a candidate, not just a slate.) The CRO ruled that all such leaflets printed must be returned to her, and any not returned would be counted against Clean Slate's budgets.

  3. 29 Feb: Clean Slate argued that Students United had erected a poster on their slate campaign office window, in violation of certain University provisions. The CRO dismissed the complaint, noting the relevant provisions did not apply to private office space.

What to infer from this?

  • Individual candidates from Students United are listed as making complaints, but I have another bridge for anyone who thinks the candidates actually wrote them. They have about a thousand volunteers, many with deep UMSU experience.

  • Clean Slate's campaign manager has also been busy with complaints. Her knowledge of University Centre regulations must have been either a fluke, or through very intensive research; and if it was the latter, it was not a good use of her time given the minuscule nature of the potential infraction - one poster in an office down a hallway that nobody walks through. Clean Slate also didn't bother making any pre-campaigning complaints, perhaps hoping they could run a "friendly" and complaint-free campaign. Oops!

  • The Regressives haven't bothered with any complaints, probably because of their lack of volunteer infrastructure and lack of knowledge of the complicated regulations surrounding an election, which would also explain why they thought they could seek signatures via public announcement to a classroom.

Will there be more during the voting period? Probably, but we'll have to wait and find out!

Candidates' Forum summary (part 3)

At this point, I've typed quite a bit. All further questions were posed by students watching the debate. I'm going to be selective and post the one that referred back to a CRO-posed question. There's just too many to type in full.

David from the Faculty of Arts noticed (as did I) that Sopotiuk did not answer the question posed of him concerning involvement in the Canadian Federation of Students. David asked Sopotiuk to clarify his position, and asked why CFS supported the elimination of the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation, which he (David) viewed as a helpful resource for students.

Sopotiuk (SU) answered that a large deal of the money spent on the CMSF was spent on bureaucracy, and it will be replaced with the Canada Student Grant Program, which he prefers. He also noted the benefit to UMSU being a part of CFS given the federation's vast network of campuses across Canada, including all unions in Manitoba. (In fact, the Red River College Students' Association is part of CASA, not CFS.)

In his own response, Singer (CS) declared the new Canada Student Grant Program to be less of a long-term investment than was the CMSF.

And again, Cairns (RC) didn't have anything nice to say about CFS. Enough said.

To wrap up, I was pleased to see the debates were so well-attended. There were a few hacks present who were being boisterous in supporting their slate, but it seemed that most people were there to listen.

Students United did a good job today promoting their diversity and experience. One weakness I didn't feel that they properly addressed was Sopotiuk's readiness for the task of President, given the fact that he's a University 1 student. When asked about it, Sopotiuk admitted that this was a "valid concern," but argued that he had matured by taking a few years off after high school to "find himself." He doesn't have the gift of oratory like many other candidates, which really showed today. I think it hurt him, but was it enough to turn people off from voting for him? We'll see.

Clean Slate has a full slate of experienced candidates. Unfortunately, they were late getting their posters up and had their leaflets confiscated during the campaign. The debate was their chance to differentiate themselves. But too often, they compared their positions to that of other slates without explaining what made them different. When they did try to differentiate themselves, they used terms like "middle of the road," which people associate with fence-sitting and not taking a stance.

What can you say about the Regressive Conservatives? They put on a good show today. They used humour well, and they were brutally honest, which young people flock to when evaluating politicians. That said, they also were strongly antagonistic to student groups, and student group members is a demographic that actually votes in UMSU elections. While they appear principled at times, they don't appear to have really fleshed out their policies concerning student groups either.

I'll have a final analysis later tonight.

Candidates' Forum summary (part 2)

Take note of the abbreviations:

  • SU: Students United
  • CS: Clean Slate
  • RC: Regressive Conservatives
All citations are paraphrased - it's hard to write everything verbatim without a keyboard.

Question #6 (candidates for President): As President of a multi-million dollar organization, this position requires management of staff. Describe your management style.
Unrau (CS) has organized release events for major products. He promotes the free flow of information and the empowerment of followers.

Cairns (RC) laments a past job where he managed some kind of aquatics facility. He claims he used to be friendly to followers, but now believes that "if they don't listen, maybe they shouldn't be staff."

Sopotiuk (SU) prefers a strength-based approach. His slate has the vision, and his followers implement it.

Question #7 (candidates for VPSS): How many student groups are there currently in UMSU, and what does it take to become one?
This is the second-worst question so far. The one asking the VPA candidates to describe the position of VPA was worse. Good grief.

11:59: Rashid (SU) explains all the things his slate would do for student groups but complete fails to answer the question. Given the poor quality of the question, this was a good move.

Heska (CS) answers the question perfectly, but loses an opportunity to promote her slate's views on student groups.

Dinning (RC) remarks that it doesn't matter how many student groups there are because "if we get in, that's definitely going to change." An exceptionally poor answer. You can have a libertarian and conservative philosophy, but his comments were both threatening and vague. They say they're not a joke slate, but....

Question #8 (candidates for VPA): A significant part of UMSU is representing students on appeals. Describe skills you have that relate to this job.
12:01: Tripple (SU) describes his experience with the Peers - Students Helping Students, excellent experience for this kind of position. He then lists the various steps for appealing a grade.

Cairns (RC) advocates a "step-wise" approach and feels this sort of thing isn't UMSU's job. (See earlier comment from him where he advocates eliminating the position.

Duong (CS) makes the first dig of the debate! He says he's not going to list the various steps to file an appeal, and instead describes how advocates an inductive approach to gather all the data and come to a conclusion that best fits the conflict. (Alright, it wasn't much of a dig.)

Question #9 (candidates for VPE): What steps will you take to promote school spirit?
Cairns (RC) lauds Bison sports teams, and says that promoting such activities to students is a "top priority."

Singer (SU) gets everyone to cheer the Vanier Cup-winning football team. He explains his plan to bring a live bison to games that fans can "pet and molest in various ways."

Bruce-Nanakeain (CS) wants to better advertize sporting events and set up transportation to games that are far from campus.

Question #10 (candidates for VPI): How will you ensure the student body is represented in decisions made by UMSU?
12:08: Brine (CS) advocates a referendum to gauge student opinion. She also wants an interactive website, and brings up the recent UMSU Council decision to censure Canadian Blood Services for the discriminating questions used on their eligibility questionnaire.

Rajotte (SU) promotes talking one-on-one with students, meeting with faculty and college associations, and would like to spend more time meeting students casually in hallways.

Cairns (RC) bashes both previous answers, and feels any student who chooses not to vote in the UMSU election does not deserve to be represented.

Question #11 (candidates for President): Many student unions in Canada are attempting to leave the Canadian Federation of Students. Would you reevaluate UMSU's membership in the federation?
Sopotiuk (SU) supports working with other student unions across Canada to lobby the federal government, and wants to work the networks that UMSU is a part of. This is the second time he hasn't directly answered the question - he didn't even say the word "CFS".

Unrau (CS) wants to carefully evaluate the relationship with CFS for a while before making a firm commitment. He isn't happy with how CFS fights its own students. There's significant applause for this answer, unlike for most other answers from Clean Slate.

It's easy to tell that Cairns (RC) has been waiting for a question like this. He tears into CFS and rhetorically asks whether students prefer to have their student dollars paying for lawyer's fees for lawsuits against other unions, or to fly student politicians around the country to try to stop unions from de-federating.