the election committee has magical powers

I’ve read the response to my earlier post about the squall thats going on between the Elections Committee and the Ubyssey. I am, at the moment, much more convinced that there is a degree of disagreement because it’s existence has now been denied. However, that’s not the focus here. My bone to pick is over the mystical powers of the Elections Committee to look back in time and determine the intent of code when it was drafted. I also take umbrage with what Ricardo thinks a letter to the editor is about – if they were only to criticize editorial decisions, the applet that the Conservative Party set up to send out letters to multiple papers would be kind of pointless. In his response, Ricardo stated:

The current policies and interpretations hence by the EA and Elections Committee nonetheless have been consistent with the original intent of the code while still following what is laid out explicitly.

I find this frustrating, for a number of reasons. First off, the Elections Committee should not be ruling based on intent, primarily because they have no way of knowing what the intent of the code was. If we based all our readings of code on the intent of the drafters, there could be any number of readings that we could take. Because all of our code is drafted and passed by Council, some of these interpretations might actually be contradictory.

Secondarily, what impresses me most about these newfound powers (be they time travel, or merely the ability to summon the shadows of past meetings, I dunno, by sacrificing a chicken in 266J) is that they were very, very wrong. I’d like to know what process the Elections Committee went about in trying to ascertain the intent of the drafters of the code. I know that they didn’t go so far as to ask the people who were sitting on the committee on the time. Perhaps I’m frustrated because Ricardo and the Elections Committee, by claiming that this was the intent of the drafters, are putting words in my mouth.

You see, I was on the committee that wrote the code (shout outs to the ad hoc TurboDemocracy Committee!), and I will tell you, point blank, that each of the regulations that was put in place was to promote the free flow of information and encourage candidates to speak to basically anyone they wanted for whatever reason, and restrict only those activities that involved direct contact with the public, like flyering, postering, chalking, classroom announcements and the like. When there is a media filter between the candidate and the public, the interaction becomes one that is initiated by the citizen, rather than the candidate, which is something that is not the case in ‘direct campaigning’. I personally was not asked (fair, as I am a VFM contestant), but I would be curious to know what submissions they have recieived regarding original intent from the other original members of the committee – Stephanie Ryan, Bruce Krayenhoff, Mike Thicke or Ian Patillo.

As I mentioned earlier, the interpretations of Code should be done based on a more civil, rather than common law, context. The code does not carry the debate with it, and sections of code can have consequences far beyond the scope of what they are originally trying to accomplish – case in point. The actions of the Elections Committee are not what I would have expected when drafting this code (and that held true for, it should be noted, three years), but there we go. Code should be read with an action in mind – is this permitted based on any reasonable reading of the Code, or is it proscribed? If there are ambiguities, the AMS has avenues for interpreting things further.

I am not disputing that the Elections Committee has the power to penalize candidates for speaking to media during the campaign break (or having their work published during the campaign break, or whatever it is now). That is clear – that activity is neither in the required definitions nor the required exemptions. I am, however, saying that they are:

  1. Wrong to make the decision they did, as it stifles democracy and debate,
  2. Wrong to attempt to interpret the intent of Code at the point of drafting, as both the intent they perceive is inaccurate, and intent should not factor into interpretations of code.

If the Elections Committee thinks their decision was right, they shouldn’t hide behind Code to justify it. Just tell us why – you have the power. What benefit to the administration of the elections, the candidates, the media, or the voting public is produced? Is it arbitrary? One way or the other, the Committee has the right to make these determinations, but they shouldn’t trade in their real powers for magic, time travelling, clairvoyant ones in order to absolve themselves of their responsibilities.

Note: Isabel sent me a text disclaiming the response as personal, and not of the committee, and stating that she only stands by the letter that today appeared in the Ubyssey.

Please remember to vote for the Radical Beer Tribune in Continuous VFM.


2 Responses to “the election committee has magical powers”

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