Sometimes all it takes is one oversight to turn an election run belly-up
Danish Hasan learned he was disqualified from the University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) election minutes after Tejas Patel’s win as president was announced live at the ‘Rock the Vote’ party. The unofficial results of the election show that Patel received 682 votes of 1,961, while Hasan received 896.
Hasan was also running for the presidential seat on URSU’s executive board and, having been involved in university organizations for several years prior, he was hoping to enact change. “Things are screwing up and I know exactly why, so I might as well step up,” he said when asked why he ran.
Hasan maintains it was a shock for him to learn of his disqualification, as he was given no demerit points during the campaign period itself. The following day, he filed an appeal with the elections committee, made up of Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Ebenezer Fordjour along with a public elections officer (PEO) and a student elections officer (SEO).
Fordjour explained that “once a decision is made by the CRO in relation to anything related to a candidate’s behaviour in an election, they have the option to appeal the decision with the Electoral Committee.” The PEO and SEO discuss the appeal with the CRO and relevant parties, then each come to a decision. If the decision is unanimous between the two, it carries even if contrary to the CRO’s original ruling. If the two disagree, the CRO gets the deciding vote.
“Specifically with that process,” Fordjour noted, “it is a process that really looks at not so much the rational or the thought process or the thing that went into making a decision, but rather whether or not the electoral bylaws and policies are being upheld and are found to be within good order when a decision is being made.”
Fordjour said he could not speak on the specifics of this appeal, but mentioned the committee’s discussion and voting processes were over and “did not have to be split. It was a unanimous decision, so I just want to put that out there.” Hasan later confirmed that his appeal was denied, and he remains disqualified for “breaching privacy policies.”
On March 13, 2023, an email was sent to several students titled “IMPORTANT – URSU Elections Danish” which included a lengthy message from Hasan with campaign information and encouragements to vote, as well as two documents. One was titled “Danish How to Vote” and contained detailed instructions for student members of URSU who wanted to vote in the election this year. The second file was titled “Danish Candidate Profile,” and contained a list of Hasan’s campaign priorities and aims were he to be elected URSU president.
An email chain was submitted to the Carillon which shows Hasan and Fordjour briefly discussing Hasan’s email days before it went out. The start to the CRO’s response on March 11 reads: “This can be used as generic info to students to vote. But you will have to remove your personal campaign information if you would like to send this out.” This campaign information was not removed from the email.
In addition, in order to personally contact students, candidates in URSU elections must collect contact information using the “Template for Collecting E-mail Addresses and Phone Numbers” which is appendix 3 in URSU’s Election and Referendum Bylaw document. Several students who did not consent to receiving emails from Hasan – some of them also staff at the Carillon – did receive the email in their uregina.ca account inbox on March 13.
When asked how candidates in future elections can avoid being disqualified, CRO Fordjour stated that “URSU is a multi-million dollar public corporation. Nowhere else in the world would we have board members governing a multi-million dollar corporation who have little understanding of their policies and bylaws and how to enforce them and run them, right? […] We want to make sure that we are grooming participants in the right direction, which is: learn the bylaws and the policies before you even possibly get elected. That’s probably the best way to make sure you even get there.”