Philippe Ferland was officially named the 2017-18 president of the St. Thomas University Students’ Union in the re-election on March 24, again.
Ferland, who won the presidency by 75 votes, said the process has been intense and eye-opening.
“You win once, but then the next time, you now know for sure that so many students are putting their faith in you and it’s kind of humbling and kind of like, ‘I’ll do what I can,’” he said.
The original general election on March 3 was followed by a recasting of ballots after an appellate board found presidential candidate Eduardo Luiz Móntañez wrongfully disqualified.
Móntañez was disqualified from the first election by chief returning officer Erickson Miranda for not removing suspected false campaigning information in time and having more than the allowed number of posters in Sir James Dunn Hall.
After finding the CRO did not do his due diligence in checking the legitimacy of the first complaint, the appellate board deemed the first warning invalid. The board found the second warning valid. Móntañez was awarded six remedies, including the recasting of ballots.
Ferland won by a margin of 14 votes the first time. Despite having the students’ support, he said he was worried heading into the re-election.
“Part of me was like, ‘That could still go either way,’ so there’s no kind of guarantee I would win again.”
Runner-up candidates Oriana Cordido and Móntañez have been contacted for comment but have not yet responded.
According to vice-president education Sam Titus, 641 students voted. This amounts to 35.2 per cent of the student body. The first election saw 772 students cast ballots. Originally skeptical about the number of students willing to vote a second time, Titus was surprised.
“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting this many students to vote,” Titus said.
“But I am very happy to be proven wrong on this point … It’s clear that students do care about elections and about who represents them.”
Titus said STUSU was able to absorb the extra cost of the re-election without much incident. SimplyVoting, an online elections host, provides STUSU with unlimited elections each year. STUSU was only required to pay Miranda overtime, but Titus could not disclose the amount because of privacy policies.
Titus said the unprecedented ballot recasting showed STUSU how inadequate and outdated its bylaws are.
“The election portion of the bylaws will require significant revision to avoid a repeat of this year’s fiasco, primarily in areas surrounding warnings, complaints and campaigning,” he said.
“I know that we are looking into changing how complaints are filed, where the burden of proof lies and concern has been raised about posters.”
With the election officially over, Ferland said he’s learned a lot about his own abilities and the enthusiasm of the student body. Most of all, he’s excited to get his job started.
“I can definitely deal with the pressure,” he said.
“And the student body, they’re very involved and very aware of what goes on with the school … and just that they’re interested in what I’m hoping to bring.”
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