Photos by Kyle West

A record 79 candidates were vying for a position on the McMaster Students Union Student Representative Assembly general elections, which ended last Monday.

Seventy-nine candidates competed for 31 SRA seats across all faculties, the highest number ever.

Last year, there were just 41 candidates running for 31 seats. Two years ago, there were 50 candidates.

The highest number of candidates came from the SRA science and SRA social science faculties.

Twenty-five candidates ran for seven seats for science, while 16 candidates ran for five seats in social science.

In 2018, there were just nine and five candidates for the science and social science faculties.

Candidate turnout was higher than last year for other faculties as well.

SRA commerce had eight candidates running for four seats this year compared to five candidates last year, and the arts and science faculty had four nominees running for one seat compared to one nominee last year.

Voter turnout was markedly high as well. Twenty per cent of undergraduate students, or a total of 4283, voted in the SRA generals election, a dramatic increase from last year’s election, which saw 1064 voters.

Several current SRA members and winning candidates attributed the increase in candidate turnout to more effective advertising from the McMaster Student Union elections department this year, made up of chief returning officer Uwais Patel and deputy returning officer Emily Yang.

“This year, the CRO and DRO did a really good job in doing outreach. It was a lot of promotion, and it was faculty-specific promotion as well,” said Tasneem Warwani, current SRA arts and science representative.

“I think what they did really well was reach out to SRA members to ensure that they were reaching out to their constituents,” said Devin Roshan, current SRA health sciences representative.

One new initiative the elections team took on this year was sending faculty-specific emails directly to students to remind them of nomination deadlines and how many seats were available.

“On the MSU pages, social media-wise, I saw more promotion about it,” said third-year social sciences student Allie Kampan, who won an SRA seat. “More people were aware of it this year.”

Some faculties also tried to host more faculty-specific events encouraging students to run. For example, the social science caucus ran an event where they handed out nomination forms.

“I think the SRA reps made it more approachable this year,” Kampman said. “There’s a stigma around a lot of MSU things, specifically SRA, which is that it’s unapproachable.”

Roshan pointed out that increased turnout also comes from regular efforts through the year to educate students on issues and what the SRA is doing.

The health sciences election this year featured eight candidates for two positions, building off seven candidates last year after just two in 2017.

Students entering post-secondary education may also be becoming more interested in politics.

“Looking at the first years specifically, in my interactions I’ve had with them, they’re very passionate about getting involved,” Warwani said.

First year council elections this year featured a record high of 54 candidates running for sixteen positions.

Not all faculties saw a rise in candidate turnout. Humanities had only three nominees, meaning all three available seats were acclaimed. There were just two nursing nominees for one seat and four kinesiology nominees for two seats. SRA engineering also had just eight candidates for six available seats.

All of these faculties have struggled to put forth nominees in recent years, with seats often being acclaimed.

According to incoming SRA engineering representative Hawk Yang, one possible reason for the typically low candidate turnout is that the engineering faculty has a prominent engineering society, which often overshadows SRA engineering initiatives.

Nonetheless, as evidenced by the SRA statistics, the MSU is still seeing refreshingly high interest in student government this year.


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Photo by Kyle West

By: Maanvi Dhillon

Voter turnout in the 2019 McMaster Students Union presidential election fell 1.2 per cent from last year, marking the lowest rate since 2012.

Just two years ago, voter turnout sat at 41.6 per cent and saw 9,327 student voters.

“The voter turnout rate continues the impressive upward trend in McMaster student voter turnout, and marks five consecutive years with more than 40 per cent of students voting in the MSU Presidential election,” reads a statement on the MSU website from 2017.

This ‘upward trend’ did not continue the following year. In particular, the 2018 election saw voter turnout fall 13.6 points.

Following last year’s election, the MSU elections department promptly investigated the sharp decline in voter turnout.

After finding no issues with the voting software, Simply Voting, low turnout was estimated to have been caused by students opting out of receiving elections emails.

“Students who voluntarily opted-out of emails from the MSU’s election software provider, as per Canadian anti-spam legislation, did not receive future emails,” said Uwais Patel, the MSU’s chief returning officer.

Patel pointed out that this did not necessarily prevent students from voting in the election as they could have received a ballot if requested. However, it still likely would have reduced their likelihood of voting.

Low voter turnout is a serious concern given the role and position of the MSU president, who Patel describes as “an important representative who will help shape the student experience for years to come.”

As a result of the change, in this year’s election, students were able to

access their online ballot with their Mac ID instead of email.

Students were also enabled to use a general link and log in with their McMaster login information, eliminating the necessity of email for access and making the process fit more naturally with other online McMaster activity, like accessing Mosaic or Avenue to Learn.

For these reasons, Patel believed the transition would make “voting more accessible and the process of voting more reliable.”

Before the election, Patel was confident that the MSU Elections’ lineup of strategies would give students access to the details they need to easily vote.

“Using resources and technology, we are maximizing the way we deliver… information,” said Patel. “By voting and engaging with the election this year, students can be confident in who they elect as MSU President to represent them on issues pertaining to student life and advocacy,” said Patel.

In effort to increase voter turnout, the elections department also released an instructional video showing how to vote.

They also asked committee members and MSU Maroons to promote the election on campus and encourage students to vote.

However, this year’s drop in voter turnout suggests that the new voting system and array of promotional efforts did not sufficiently improve the turnout rate.

This year’s notably low voter turnout casts doubt over the new MSU president’s capacity to ‘represent’ McMaster’s nearly 30,000 undergraduates when only 6,576 voted in the election.


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