Reporting by Alex Boer and Jake English
The Chief Returning Officer for the Humber Students Federation says the results of last week’s online election that ended in turmoil with the disqualification of four candidates including the current HSF president will be discussed at a meeting tomorrow night at the Guelph-Humber.
“The meeting tomorrow is when I go over voter turnouts, who was elected to what positions, I guess answer any questions anyone has,” says CRO Natalia Toussaint. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in Room GH101 in the Guelph Humber building at North Campus.
HSF President Tim Brilhante was disqualified along with Lakeshore vice-president of student affairs candidates Karnesh Babaria and Tim Samaniego. Eric Collings was also disqualified, who sought a seat on the HSF board of directors. The student candidates were disqualified by Toussaint for allegedly breaking a variety of rules related to campaigning after the electoral campaigning period was officially over.
In the wake of his last-minute removal from the ballot in the middle of the three-day election, Brilhante’s supporters say the candidate was disqualified for apparently minor – and, they say, in one case falsely alleged – breaches of campaign rules around social networking.
Brilhante was removed from the election ballot last Thursday night, one whole day before the end of the voting period. Babaria, who was also disqualified in the election for putting campaign posters in student residence buildings, says Brilhante had about 2500 votes when he was taken off the ballot. Shawn Manahan won the presidential election with 1051 votes according to the results posted on Humber Life.
Under the HSF’s three strikes policy, the first strike against Brillhante came when Joseph Minielli, president of the ‘Encounter: Bible Study’ club, tweeted an image of silly putty given out at the voting booths sculpted to spell the phrase “I vote Tim” on his personal Twitter account. HSF’s Election and Appeals policy states that clubs are not allowed to be endorsed by clubs.
“Make something out of the silly putty and take a picture of it and post it on Twitter,” is what Minielli says he was instructed to do at the voting booth. “And what they did say on the back of the flyer was that I could design anything.”
Minielli doesn’t believe he should have had to remove his tweet.
“It didn’t say that the club votes for Tim, it said that I vote for Tim because it’s my account,” Minielli says.
Club endorsements also caused the second strike against Brilhante. But according to Jordana Siciliano, a member of Brilhante’s campaign team, a picture of Brilhante posted by The Embassy – another Humber student group that provides a space and outlet for religious-minded students to meet together – never existed. Minielli says his tweet was documented with a screenshot that the HSF presented to Brilhante and his team as proof of the strike, but Siciliano says no such measures were taken with The Embassy’s tweet.
“Embassy allegedly posted on (its) Twitter a picture of one of Tim’s posters. That’s what the HSF said,” says Siciliano. “There’s no evidence of this tweet and I’ve never seen the evidence of this tweet. And I’ve gone looking for it and I can’t find it.”
What’s more, Siciliano says the people in control of the Embassy’s Twitter account claim to have never tweeted such a picture. Melissa Brown, the president of The Embassy has been contacted for comment. Presently, the Twitter account only mentions Brilhante on March 9 when the Embassy thanked him for visiting an event.
Siciliano says the third strike was given for a campaign related Facebook cover photo on Brilhante’s personal page that had been replaced, but not removed. Siciliano says the image was used as part of Brilhante’s promotional campaign.
HSF’s Elections and Appeals board policy states, “No electronic campaign messages can be sent after the close of the campaigning period” and, “Websites and social media tools must no longer be accessible after the close of the campaign period.”
According to Siciliano, the offending cover photo was changed before the end of the campaign period to a two-year old picture of Brilhante, leaving the campaign picture in Facebook’s history.
President-elect Shawn Manahan says while it’s unfortunate that Brilhante was disqualified from the election, the responsibility ultimately falls on his opponent to adhere to the rules outlined in the HSF election process that is upheld by the CRO.
“He signed off on the policy that got him,” says Manahan, who says he was given two strikes himself. “It may have been a little harsher this year, but it was fair.”
CRO Toussaint says the Elections and Appeals policy is the document that details all of HSF’s election procedures, including rules on campaigning.
“The last time that policy was updated was October 2013 by all current students who sit for board of director,” says Toussaint.
Manahan says his strikes were for failing to remove a promotional banner from his twitter profile after the end of the campaigning period as well as using his personal Hawk House Facebook page to talk about the election with a friend. According to Manahan, the HSF interpreted his Hawk House page as a third party campaigning on his behalf.