The recent UNB SU by-election, with the voting period originally dated from Nov. 20 to 29, was compromised as a result of a technical error in registration, nullifying all existing results and leading to a new voting period.
The by-election was held to fill four positions left empty in the last general election in February including the Arts Representative, First-Year Representative, International Student Representative, and a Board of Governors position.
On Nov. 29, an unofficial list of winners were announced, but was later nullified as a result of “technical errors,” spurring another voting period from Dec. 5 to 11.
Ella Wiggins, the Chief Returning Officer (CRO), charged with the operations and integrity of Student Union elections, explained the error to be the result of miscommunication with UNB Information Technology Services (ITS).
“There was an error with graduate students being disenfranchised. They were unable to vote,” said Wiggins. “It was a technical error when we were setting up the ballot, that a certain box wasn’t checked.”
Wiggins said this issue came to her attention on the second day of the original voting period, after graduate students expressed issues in being unable to register to vote.
This particularly affected the election of the Board of Governor’s position, as this was the only position up for election that both undergraduate and graduate students could vote for.
All positions were impacted by technical errors, as the voting period was shortened by twelve hours, closing at 11:59am instead of 11:59pm.
Wiggins attributes these issues in communication to the timing of the by-election, which is only half the length of a regular general election, and was bisected by reading week.
‘We were unable to get an in-person meeting with ITS, because of the busyness of the year and how fast this by-election was coming on. So there's a lot of miscommunication with ITS and then the election team,” she said.
Lidia Shibre was the unofficial winner of the Arts Faculty Representative position before the results were nullified. She expressed frustration about having to go through the process again, especially considering the busyness of exam season, and concern for voters participating again.
“I’m worried I’ll lose half my votes for something that isn’t my doing,” she said. “But I’m glad the CRO and DCRO have been in transparent and constant communication to make sure candidates know what’s going on.”
Marcel Pefang, the unofficial winner of the International Student Representative position, expressed similar sentiments, saying that while it is disheartening to undergo another voting period, he understands the importance of ensuring all students can vote.
“It's sad because I was excited to start working the position but if the polls closed earlier than expected, then that means not every student had the opportunity to vote. Running the election period again gives those students a chance to vote and this ensures that the final decision is one that was agreed upon by the majority of the voters,” said Pefang.
Wiggins says that she understands the hesitation and confusion surrounding the by-election, wants to ensure students of the integrity of the previous by-election, and of the second voting period.
“We want to be as transparent with people as possible, because we want them to know that there's still integrity within the institution; that this was not done out of malice; that this was a simple technical error,” said Wiggins.
The voting period will continue until 11:59pm on Dec. 11.