Elections SSMU has invalidated Tariq Khan’s presidential win due to multiple bylaw infractions during the campaign period.
As a result of the invalidation, runner-up Courtney Ayukawa has been declared the president-elect for the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). Ayukawa lost the presidential race to Khan by 78 votes on March 21.
Khan’s campaign period was marked by allegations of bylaw violations, including a public censure on March 21 for campaign activities carried out by individuals who were not members of Khan’s campaign team.
Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Ben Fung said Elections SSMU received evidence that Khan violated more than this one bylaw during the campaign period.
“In the time following the elections we were made aware of several things, either through email, our own investigations, or requests for investigations of new information,” he said. “Part of our due diligence is to seek the testimony of all parties [….] We [took] all this information into consideration.”
According to Elections SSMU, Khan’s bylaw infractions include financial inconsistencies within his budget report, unsolicited messages regarding campaigning to SSMU members, and the “impingement of the spirit of a fair campaign and of the voting process.”
“We won’t go into more detail at this time because we want to respect the privacy of all the parties involved in this situation,” Fung said.
SSMU bylaws allow the CEO to invalidate an election if they deem “any grave violation of the Constitution, bylaws, or policies” to have “adversely affected the outcome of the election.”
According to Ayukawa, a petition to overturn the election was also submitted to the Judicial Board after Tariq’s election.
“The J-Board case was […] saying that Elections SSMU did not uphold the spirit of a fair campaign, which allowed Tariq to get the equivalent of at least 78 votes because he broke so many rules,” she said.
Incoming Vice-President University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan said she was one of the students who communicated personal concerns about bylaw violations with Elections SSMU during the campaign period and following Tariq’s election. According to Stewart-Kanigan, the evidence from the petition will clarify the decision to students.
“There’ll be a lot of substantial evidence there,” she said. “Within the first day, I’d heard that Elections SSMU received 50 emails regarding concerns about campaign violations for Tariq’s team, so that’s really unprecedented.”
Now that Elections SSMU has invalidated the election, the Judicial Board case will not move forward. However, Ayukawa said the petition’s evidence may still be relevant if anyone contests the ruling made by Elections SSMU by filing a petition with the Judicial Board within five days.
Fung said the Judicial Board case did not have a significant impact on Elections SSMU’s decision.
According to Fung, Ayukawa was declared president-elect due to bylaws mandating that, in the case of an invalidation, the runner-up becomes the winner. In addition, there is not enough time left in the semester to run another election according to the by-laws.
Ayukawa expressed excitement at the news.
“I’m confident that I’ve established [trust] with a lot of the other candidates already,” she said. “I’m so incredibly excited and at a loss for words.”
Stewart-Kanigan said she supports the decision by Elections SSMU.
“SSMU faces a lot of criticism from students and it does face a lot of problems with student trust,” she said. “I think this is an important move for SSMU and for showing our dedication for upholding the spirit of fair transparent government grounded in integrity.”
At time of press, Khan could not be reached for comment.