Report: Elections Committee - October 14, 2020

Via Virtual Meeting


October 14, 2020

To the Executive Committee,
University of Toronto.

Your Committee reports that it held a virtual meeting on Wednesday, October 14, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. with the following members present:

P.C. Choo, Chair; Joan M. Johnston; Joanne McNamara; Mark Lautens

Olivia Batt

Tracey Gameiro, Secretary
Anwar Kazimi, Deputy Secretary of the Governing Council and Chief Returning Officer
Patrick McNeil, Assistant Secretary of the Governing Council and Deputy Returning Officer
Emma Thacker, Assistant Secretary of the Governing Council and Deputy Returning Officer, UTSC

  1. Welcome/Introductions

    The Chair welcomed members and guests to the meeting.
  2. Overview of Mandate & Terms of Reference

    The Chair provided an overview of the Committee’s mandate and highlighted its areas of responsibility as outlined in its Terms of Reference, including its composition. One of the Committee’s stated areas of responsibility was to review and recommend for approval the policy on elections. While there was not a separate document on “elections policy”, the Election Guidelines and the University of Toronto Act, 1971, each contained elements which together were considered the elections policy. He added that the U of T Act also spoke to a number of areas related to Governing Council membership and elections.

    The Act empowered the Governing Council to determine the manner and procedure of election of its members. The Act also authorized the Governing Council to set constituencies and assign administrative staff, student, and teaching staff to these constituencies, which could be characterized as subgroups within each estate. The Committee also oversaw the elections process and the CRO would present an Elections Report to the Committee at the final meeting of the governance cycle.

    Turning to Elections Guidelines, the Chair noted that an important function of the Committee was to review annually the Election Guidelines and approve any minor amendments. The draft 2021 Guidelines would be considered by the Committee at the next meeting. If required, recommendations for “major” amendments to the Guidelines would be forwarded by the Committee to the Executive Committee for approval.

    As in past years, the 2021 elections schedule would start with the opening of the nomination period in January, through the campaign and voting period in mid-February, the appeals period, and finally would end with any hearings regarding election expenses towards the end of March.

    The Chair then discussed the important role of the Committee as Election Overseers. In this role the Committee would be empowered to consider any appeal of a decision of the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) or the Deputy Returning Officers as well as any appeal or other question arising from the conduct of the elections as outlined in the Guidelines.
  3. Calendar of Business

    Mr. Kazimi introduced himself and role as assessor to the Committee and Chief Returning Officer. He noted that a central function of the Committee would be to consider the Election Guidelines 2021; which it would do at its next meeting. Ms. Kazimi indicated that while minor changes could be approved by the Committee itself, the nature of the proposed changes were such that the recommendation would be that they be escalated to the Executive Committee for approval.
  4. Preliminary Discussion - Election Guidelines 2021

    The CRO provided a preliminary report on the proposed revisions and updates to the 2021 Guidelines. In particular, Mr. Kazimi drew members’ attention to the proposed change to allow the nomination process for administrative staff, teaching staff, and all student constituencies to be completed online, given the restrictions in place as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In prior years, nomination forms were submitted in hardcopy form with the ‘wet’ signatures of nominators required to confirm their support of the candidate.

    The CRO explained that the process currently being explored would involve an online portal accessed through a UTORID logon – which all University administrative and teaching staff, and students were issued. He advised that further details of the proposal would be shared with the Committee at their next meeting.

    A member inquired whether changes in the manner in which election campaigns were conducted were anticipated given social distancing requirements and the fact that the majority of the University’s community was not on campus, but rather working and studying remotely. In reply, Mr. Kazimi noted that in recent years the mode for campaigning had (already) moved largely online, with candidates making use of electronic listservs, as well as the opportunity to provide a URL to a webpage or other social media page as part of their candidate statements, which was included on each ballot.

    In response to a member’s question regarding whether the changes being proposed to the 2021 Election Guidelines as a result of COVID-19 would be permanent or in place only for the duration of the pandemic-related restrictions, Mr. Kazimi opined that he saw no reason why the move to electronic submission of nomination forms would not continue if it was well received and worked efficiently. He added that the there would be an opportunity to review the process on an annual basis.
  5. Report of the Previous Meeting - Report Number 87 (May 20, 2020)

    The Report of the Previous Meeting – Report Number 87, was approved.
  6. Business Arising from the Report of the Previous Meeting

    There was no business arising from the report of the previous meeting.
  7. Date of Next Meeting: Thursday, November 26, 2020, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.

    The Chair confirmed that the date of the next meeting would be held on November 26, 2020.
  8. Other Business

    Mr. Kazimi provided an update on by-election results, advising members that candidates had been informed of the results as well as posted on the Elections website– the winners would be declared at noon on Friday, October 16, 2020. Notably, he reported that that two teaching staff members had been elected (by acclamation) to the Academic Board. He also informed members that no appeals had been filed.

The meeting adjourned at 5:29 p.m.

October 16, 2020