WUSA Director candidate, Karl Zhu, has been disqualified from the general election due to minor violations of the spirit of the Elections and Referenda Procedure (ERP) and misleading the Elections and Referenda Officer (ERO).
The ERP allows any member of the University Community to allege that a candidate or their campaign team has violated portions of the election procedure, or any relevant WUSA by-law, policy, or procedure. Based on these allegations, and the defence provided by the candidates, the ERO makes decisions regarding the validity of the allegations. If valid, the ERO assigns demerit points to the candidate in question, in line with the ERP. Any candidate with 11 or more demerit points is disqualified from the election. Candidates or complainants can appeal the ERO’s decision to the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) and then one last time to the Elections and Referenda Committee (ERC).
In accordance with the ERP, the WUSA website was updated with a list of all allegations, including all parties involved, all relevant pieces of evidence, the decision of the ERO, a summary of the rationale behind the decision, and the determined penalty.
Zhu was alleged to have influenced voter’s decision in a non-democratic way by Alex He and of campaigning outside of campaign period by Matthew Schwarze.
According to both He and Schwarze’s allegations, Zhu was pressurising and harassing students to nominate and/or vote for him. Zhu also allegedly repeatedly asked students why they wouldn’t nominate him and who they were nominating instead. To support his claims, He provided a voice recording of some of the exchange as evidence.
In response to He’s allegations, the ERO noted, “It is in the spirit of the election to have voters carefully educate themselves on the candidates present in the election and decide based on campaigning skills and candidate platforms. Thus, [Zhu’s] behaviour found in the recording [provided by He] will be assessed as a minor contravention to the spirit [of the ERP].”
In response to Schwarze’s allegations, the ERC found that “the candidate placed undue pressure on students to submit nominations.” This was also assessed as a minor violation of the spirit of the ERP.
Both these decisions resulted in Zhu receiving six demerit points each.
According to the CRO, Zhu “called into question the legitimacy of the [recording provided by He] without having formally made an accusation that it was false,” adding that “It seems most likely that the evidence is legitimate, and that the defendant [Zhu] had only called it into question to weaken the complainant [He]’s case, without going so far as to formally accuse the complainant of fabricating evidence. Although it is quite possible that the defendant does not recall the interaction that took place in the voice recording, if the defendant did recall the interaction and still decided to call into question what he knew to be legitimate evidence, we would be dealing here with a much more serious offence of misleading the ERO. There isn’t sufficient evidence here to pursue that line of reasoning.”
In an appeal, He argued that Zhu had in fact intentionally misled the CRO (sic.), claiming that “argument in question was a memorable 5-minute exchange,” and also brought two witnesses to corroborate his story.
The ERC ruled that Zhu was in fact guilty of misleading the ERO during the course of the initial allegation, and assigned him 11 demerit points.
Zhu’s disqualification will result in a re-tallying of the Director election votes. WUSA is yet to announce the updated results.
Imprint has reached out to Zhu for comment but has not received a response as of the initial publishing of this piece.
There was also an allegation filed by Stephanie Ye-Mowe against WUSA Director candidate Rania Datoo for campaigning outside of campaign period, which resulted in her receiving two demerit points.
This is a developing story. Any new information that we receive will be updated here.
UPDATE (Aug 9, 2022):
After the re-tallying of the votes, Marie Jolicoeur-Becotte from the faculty of health has been elected to the WUSA Board of Directors in Zhu’s place. The remaining winners remained the same as announced earlier.
These results are unofficial until the Board receives the CRO’s report and ratifies the results.
CORRECTION (Aug 10, 2022):
An earlier version of this article did not include the information about the allegation against Rania Datoo and the resulting penalty. The article has been updated to include that information.