The Spring 2021 elections for the University of Toronto Mississauga Students’ Union will be held virtually. Elections will be held on March 16 and UTM students will be able to submit their votes anytime between 9:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Candidates will campaign for the five eligible positions in the executive team and the 14 positions on the Board of Directors. The nomination period will begin on March 1 and end on March 5, followed by a silent two-day period. Campaigning for the elections will begin on March 8 and last until March 18.
This year’s All Candidates Forum will be held at noon on March 6 via a Zoom meeting. The candidates’ debate is scheduled to take place on March 10 at 5:00 p.m. In the forum, all of the candidates nominated for positions on both the executive team and the Board of Directors will present their campaigns to the student body. Candidates will introduce themselves, state the position they will be running for, and discuss their platforms.
The UTMSU has been vehemently against holding online elections in the past. In the 2018 UTMSU Annual General Meeting (AGM), UTM student Ethan Bryant put forward a motion to establish an online voting system, a method that has already been adopted by the UTSU.
“It’s important that we look at our current voting system and acknowledge that, effectively, it discriminates against those with disabilities,” stated Bryant in the motion.
Participation in elections at UTM has been low throughout the years. Although 2020 did see an increase in voter turnout, it was still below 15 per cent. The implementation of an online voting system could solve some accessibility issues from in-person elections and increase voter turnout.
In the 2018 AGM, Bryant’s motion was supported by Rupin Liddar, a UTM student who believed that an online system could help students struggling with social anxiety to participate in union elections.
However, the UTMSU Vice-President Equity Leena Arbaji spoke against the motion to implement an online voting system at the Mississauga campus in 2018, and it was ultimately rejected. Arbaji argued that “easy and accessible are not the same things,” and that if the union wanted to create a more inclusive voting environment, it would work on improving the existing system rather than establishing a new one.
This year’s virtual elections can be an opportunity for UTM to finally experience an election with a variety of candidates and healthy competition. Many of the positions in previous election campaigns were uncontested and candidates were able to win their seats without facing any opposition.
The Spring 2020 UTMSU elections for the executive team featured one slate, Connect UTM, and a single individual candidate, Med K, running for the VP Internal position. Due to the virtual platform of this year’s elections, we can finally see how online elections can improve voter turnout and community participation in the election process.
Students interested in launching their own campaign and running for a position on the UTMSU executive team or the Board of Directors are encouraged to contact the union’s Chief Returning Officer (firstname.lastname@example.org) to receive their nomination package before the end of the nomination period.