The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association (UWSA) is holding byelections to fill a number of vacant board of directors positions, and, this year, the association hopes to exceed historically low voter turnout.
Every year, the UWSA holds a general election, which is in February, UWSA chief elections commissioner Hollie Swart explains. There are 20 positions on the board of directors, including executive positions like president and vice president external affairs. Byelections are held in the fall to fill any positions not filled in the general election, she notes.
The chief elections commissioner explains that there were a series of posts not run for in the 2017 UWSA general election. These include part-time mature students director, community liaison, recreation and athletics director, LGBT* students director, director of student living, graduate students director, the Professional, Applied and Continuing Education (PACE) director and one available student seat on the University of Winnipeg senate.
All positions have candidates running for them, except mature students director, director of student living and the student seat on the University of Winnipeg senate.
PACE director is contested between Tolu Ilelaboye and the co-director pair of Serge Sousa F and Siying Chen. Community liaison director is contested between Jerico Nieves and Brayana Petti. LGBT* director is contested between Solène Stockwell and the co-director pair of Quentin Mayhew and Jude Yallowega.
Recreation and athletics has only Kaijun Zhou running, and Laura Cameron is the sole person running for graduate students director. Hollie Swart notes that for people running uncontested there will be a yes/no ballot.
“I really don’t understand what they (the UWSA) do for us,” says Temiag Boluga, a second-year student at the University of Winnipeg. They say that, because of this lack of clarity on what the association does, they will not be voting in the upcoming byelections. Boluga adds that they would like to see improved communication from the UWSA to the student body.
Most byelection contenders agree improved communication with the student body should be one of the UWSA’s major goals for the upcoming year.
“Everyone should come vote, because voter turnout is really low at this university, especially for byelections,” Swart says.
She says byelection turnout typically hangs around five per cent, except for 2014, when the U-Pass referendum occurred, in which it reached 13.6 per cent. In the 2016 byelection, in which one position was contested, only 1.6 per cent of the student body came out.
“We’re definitely hoping to improve on that number. That was probably the lowest number in about 14 years,” she says.
Voting in the UWSA byelections will occur at stations across campus from Oct. 23-25.