Election team breaks standard of pre-campaign consultation, raising concerns among candidates and student groups

The AMS Elections Committee is facing criticism for its decision to bar candidates from speaking to student groups before the start of the campaign period – a break from a long-standing election norm.

The commission’s decision appears to contradict Section IX, Subsection A, Article 2, Paragraph 6 of the AMS Code which allows “private communication regarding election plans” before the campaign period.

Past contestants have used it to consult with students when building their platforms. But without this provision, applicants and student groups fear the odds will tilt in favor of incumbents who may have an understanding of what student groups want — which newcomers may lack.

Candidates face pressure to release their platforms early in the campaign period to gain an edge over their competitors. Under this new rule, they will have to delay posting their platforms until they can consult with students during this time.

Michelle Marcus, a member of the UBC Climate Justice lobbying team, said the move discourages candidates from consulting the constituencies they are running to represent.

When Climate Justice emailed candidates for pre-campaign meetings, as he had done in previous years, Marcus said some candidates responded. [with] worry[cut —> ed, and add an s] that would be an offence.

“I’m really concerned about the stress this type of rule puts on all applicants, but especially new applicants,” said Marcus, who graduated from UBC in June 2021. “Because with a rule like this , you have to worry about every conversation you have.

This concern is due in part to the fact that the elections committee did not make any announcements to all candidates regarding the change.

Neither Ben Du, the sole candidate for the AMS VP administration, nor Georgia Yee, vying for re-election to the Board of Governors and the Senate, recalled that the committee had issued an official statement on the matter. Yee said she heard about it “through the grapevine” and Du found out after emailing the committee for clarification.

“AMS Elections is already scary without all these hidden rules or hidden agreements that aren’t explicitly stated in the manual,” Yee said.

Du said the move delayed his plans to seek input from student groups before releasing his platform. Although he said the decision offered no gray area for contestants to break the rules, he said he would have appreciated clearer communication of the decision to all contestants.

Shania Muthu, AMS election director and head of the elections committee, declined to comment, citing a busy schedule.

The committee has been fraught with difficulties this year, with the AMS board firing the former chief electoral officer in November at her request. According to Marcus, this could have hindered the transition process for the new committee.

Now that the campaign period is well underway, Yee, Du and Marcus agreed there was little the committee could do to seek redress. Marcus said the AMS board could ask the committee to explain its decision now and remove any ambiguity in the relevant section of the code for future elections.

“I know for a fact that the contestants spoke to students about their platforms, and I think that’s how it should be,” she said of past races. “I don’t see why anyone would want students to elect candidates who haven’t consulted other students on their platform.”

Voting opens March 7.

follow us on @UbysseyNews on Twitter and follow our election coverage from February 28. This article is part of our AMS 2022 election coverage.

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