We didn’t need another HSF controversy

by | Oct 10, 2014 | Editorial

We’re another year down and there’s another election controversy at Humber Students’ Federation – same old song and dance.

Wouldn’t it be nice if our student union could host a clean election?

Granted, this year only “about 30” eligible students were denied their right to vote. By HSF’s estimate, that is. Actual numbers aren’t available and may never be known.

That denial, also according to HSF, was only temporary. All students’ rights were restored to them by the last day of voting Sept. 30 in a presidential by-election needed because last spring’s HSF results had to be thrown out.

They shouldn’t have been denied those rights in the first place.

Why did it happen? Unpaid “activity fees.”

To be eligible to vote, full-time Humber College and University of Guelph-Humber students must have paid their “Mandatory Student Government fee” (as the College calls it), also known as the activity fee, in full.

In federal elections, the only thing that can strip an otherwise eligible voter of that most valuable democratic right is if they are currently incarcerated for a term of two years or more.

Haven’t paid your taxes? You can still vote.

Do you have unpaid parking tickets, speeding tickets, etc.? You can still vote.

Nothing short of breaking the law, being charged, prosecuted, convicted and incarcerated can lead to your not being allowed to have a say in who represents you in Parliament.

So why is it that, less than a month into the school year when many students have deferred their tuition payments, into which these fees are rolled, or are waiting for their government student loans, HSF decided they weren’t deserving the right to a say, the right to vote?

It’s difficult enough making students care about government at the best of times, let alone student government.

Telling those who make an effort to take part in the democratic process they aren’t wanted alienates them even further.

It is good the issue was resolved before voting closed at 4 p.m. Sept. 30 and HSF reached out to those incorrectly ineligible to let them know they could come back and cast their vote. But in an election where voter turnout was already going to be an issue, and less than 10 per cent of eligible students came out, every effort should have been made to make voting less of a hassle.

Many other student unions run their whole election online. Everything HSF does is now digital. Staff manning the polling stations did little more than point students in the right direction. It would be a simple exercise to allow students to vote from the comfort of their homes, on their laptops and cell phones.

An online voting system would also help our government connect with their members where they live – on social media. Tweet out a link. Instagram the ballot. Snapchat a message reminding students to vote. Any one of these has the potential to add at least a couple points to voter turnout.

In the end, HSF is fortunate Tom Walton eventually won the presidential election by a significant margin. If it had been a closer race a case could have been made by the losing candidates to cast out the results, forcing the union to try for a third time to find a leader.

Hopefully the results will be accepted by the union membership next week and we can put this whole sorry state of affairs behind us.

And the student body can get on with ignoring HSF like they usually do.