Elections SSMU announced on Thursday that allegations of illegal campaigning by Lola Baraldi prior to her election as Vice-President Internal did not constitute sufficient grounds for invalidation, as ruled by the Elections Review Committee (ERC).
The VP Internal race was the closest in the 2015 Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) elections, with Baraldi winning over opponent Johanna Nikoletos by 13 votes.
Nikoletos explained that she filed a petition with Elections SSMU on March 23, asking them to convene the ERC in order to invalidate the results of the VP Internal election. According to Nikoletos, Baraldi illegally campaigned at the café in the lobby of New Residence Hall, a McGill residence, on March 14.
“Once the election results were announced last Friday, individuals started to come forward with testimonies about illegal campaigning that they witnessed,” Nikoletos said. “Some of the testimonies we heard from residents of the building included hearing […] Lou Lou, the café worker, campaigning on Baraldi’s behalf. Some testimonies included individuals who were also given free food by Baraldi.”
Baraldi refuted allegations that she had bribed students with food. She continued to explain that she was present in a non-candidate capacity at New Residence Hall on March 14.
“I was indeed hanging out in the New Residence lobby and at the café, where I’ve been going for the past three years, not for any campaigning purposes whatsoever—although a New Residence Hall Council member was present with me throughout most of the night and aware of my presence there,” she said. “I was helping work the cash, which I often do […] in my capacity as a student helping out an employee on her last night working in residence. I did not benefit from this position nor abuse its status to campaign, nor did I initiate any conversations regarding my campaign or my platform.”
On Saturday, the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of Elections SSMU published a report summarizing the results of its investigations into the alleged infractions.
“Based on the evidence before us at that time, the ERC determined that an infraction had occurred,” the report reads. “Candidate Baraldi has violated the stipulations of By-law 3.3 (designation of a single bulletin board in residence) by allowing a poster to be placed on the counter for a period of 2.5/3 hours; Candidate Baraldi allowed New Residence Café worker Louise Smith, a non-SSMU member, to campaign on her behalf in violation of By-law 14.5 while the poster was on the counter; Candidate Baraldi did not charge one or two people for their purchases.”
The report also outlined sanctions placed on Baraldi in light of the infractions.
“The resulting sanction that we have deemed appropriate for the confirmed infringements is the publishing of this report as a public censure of Lola Baraldi for her actions on March 14, 2015 and denying Lola Baraldi reimbursement for her financial expenses,” the report reads.
Baraldi was not sanctioned for providing food to students free of charge.
“Though we believe Ms. Baraldi did not charge one or two people for their purchases, we do not have any conclusive evidence that this was conducted for the purposes of promoting her candidacy and sanctioning Ms. Baraldi for a lapse in judgment is beyond the scope of Election SSMU’s jurisdiction,” the report stated.
Baraldi also addressed her eligibility to serve as an executive given her international student status, another subject of contention.
“I actually brought this up with the Dean of Students and International Student Services, who told me […] that I could carry a part-time course load if my part-time studies are due to an elected position with a student association,” Baraldi said.
Baraldi expressed that she would maintain transparency throughout any further investigation of the matter.
“The allegations of slate campaigning are not valid and have all been repudiated by Elections SSMU,” Baraldi said. “Ultimately, I am happy to provide further documentation, testimonials, and evidence for any doubts regarding the legitimacy of my campaign, as I am fully confident that it was a clean campaign.”
Convention of the ERC is outlined in SSMU Bylaw book 1, article 31.1, which was added to the bylaw book this January.
“[The CEO shall immediately call for the meeting of the Electoral Review Committee…] in the case that a disqualification of a candidate or referendum committee, or the invalidation of an Election of a successful candidate or Referendum question, is to be considered,” the article reads.
According to the bylaws, the CEO has the ability to make a final decision on the petition.
“The CEO and the [deputy electoral officer] shall seek the consultation of the Electoral Review Committee, however, they shall retain the full authority vested in them by the Constitution and By-Laws to make decisions regarding elections,” article 31.4 reads. “The Electoral Review Committee shall rule on whether or not particular infractions have occurred and Elections SSMU shall rule as to the sanctions or resources that are to be undertaken in response to the infractions.”
Nikoletos stated that she is planning to appeal the ERC’s decision through the SSMU Judicial Board (J-Board), the judicial branch of SSMU.
“I am disappointed with the decision by Elections SSMU,” she said. “My team and I will be pursuing a J-Board case against Elections SSMU for failing to uphold [its] mandate of ensuring a fair election in accordance with the SSMU bylaws.”
According to the SSMU bylaws, Nikoletos will have five days to submit a petition to the J-Board.