The 2021 York Federation of Students (YFS) election results were released on April 1, along with the full slate of acclaimed positions. The three contested positions were for the directors of Bethune College, Winter College, and the Schulich School of Business. The winners were Valentina Acosta-Serrano, Emma Pressello, and Sara Reza, respectively. The three elected candidates all belonged to the Empower YU party, and they officially join the 19 acclaimed candidates in an all-Empower YU slate.
Acosta-Serrano secured the Bethune Director position with 138 votes to opponent Remie Taza’s 33. Reza won the position of Schulich Director with 134 votes to opponent Jaspreet Kaur Grewal’s 34, and Pressello claimed the Winters Director position with 123 votes against Sarah Ayoub’s 27.
This totals to 489 votes cast in the 2021 elections, even though York’s student body has a population of approximately 46,900.
The voting period began on Tuesday, March 16, and ended on Friday, March 18. Voting took place online, supplemented by a software called Election Buddy.
When asked about the two-week duration it took to count these votes, Chief Returning Officer (CRO) Rebekah Terpstra told Excalibur results would only be posted “as soon as the double envelopes are confirmed.” The CRO did not respond to follow-up questions about how this counting process worked, what caused the delays, and what double envelopes mean in a virtual election.
Students have expressed surprise at the use of online voting despite the YFS’ traditional opposition to this process.
“I think last year the other party was pushing for an online mandate, like online voting. And that idea was shut down by Unite YU, and the reason was for concerns surrounding hacking and cybersecurity. I find it kind of ironic that they actually went online this year, even though that’s the stuff their party said last year,” says a third-year York student who wishes to remain anonymous.
“The YFS claim that York is very vulnerable to hacking — I don’t know who would hack a student election, but that’s what they said,” the student adds. “I’m assuming they knew if they’d had online voting, then they might get voted out.”
As for this year’s voter turnout, students have varying thoughts on its success.
“When we have school in person, I’m less aware of the marketing campaigns that are being led by the students running. This probably has to do with how I’m not as involved with Instagram during in-person school, but also because the students running usually don’t use their social media platforms effectively while campaigning,” says Leena Baber, a second-year student at Schulich.
In contrast, Baber says this year she felt candidates used their personal social media platforms to convey their messages more effectively: “In addition to my friends, I was also aware of random strangers that were running and that’s what motivated me to vote during the elections this year,” she says.
“I got messages from people that were running — even those who I didn’t know before — and by looking through their platform online, I felt like I was aware enough to vote for the best option.”
Baber also added that the issues during the pandemic provided added impetus to vote: “Usually, such issues aren’t as prominent or known about so there isn’t much motivation for me to vote in the elections. So, I felt that I was more motivated to vote in the elections this year than ever before.”
On the other hand, the anonymous student feels that upper-year students experienced a lack of morale that made them less motivated to vote. The student mentions past concerns such as the alleged mishandling of funds and rumoured sexual assault allegations as reasons for this lack of trust in the YFS overall.
“After all this bad stuff happens, they’re still in power. Like obviously in a democracy, which York is, if that keeps on happening, most people get demotivated to not even vote,” the York student says. “When I was in my first year, most third and fourth years I talked to didn’t even care about voting anymore, because whatever the party promised, it never came to fruition.”
“Like last year, for some reason they promised free tuition, which is impossible. But they still won, and then obviously there was no free tuition,” the student adds. “In my opinion there’s just a whole bunch of weird corrupted stuff going on that nobody really takes a look at in first and second year, but in third and fourth year they know about it.”