Opening Statement



Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The In School Voting By-Law: A Pig in a Poke?

Finally! We can vote in school on May 11th! I am a long time supporter of TSU electoral reform. Still, I am very concerned that we might have bought a pig in a poke. The in school voting by-law that was approved at UAGM last year is very seriously flawed!

Can online or telephone voting also be used? Under the by-law this isn't possible! What if May 11th isn't always a good date for many of our members? Too bad, that's the day set from now on! How about four geographically accessible polls across the city? Advance polls? Nope! They could be more practical and cost effective. Not allowed!  Since the TSU election isn't during UAGM anymore, how can our members hear all the candidates speeches and ask questions, practically speaking? How many members will even go to vote on our all important by-laws at UAGM now? The by-law doesn't consider that! Let me explain.

In school voting was passed with great excitement at last year's TSU UAGM. During the election a lot of the candidates suddenly jumped on board. What if they'd been against it in the past? No matter! Now it was a catchy if not over simplified election slogan. Our TSU members liked the idea, of course. Who wouldn't in theory?

Unfortunately, the in school voting by-law was written without much thoughtful investigation or prudent consideration. It all happened so fast. Very flawed, ill conceived and incomplete, it suddenly came flying out of the blue dressed up with a fancy election slogan. Instead of involving a reasoned debate about how to best improve our voting system, it seems to have been little more than an ill conceived attempt of just trying to get a lot of members out to vote for whoever used the slogan. UAGM 2010 approved it in haste amongst all the yelling and excitement that pushed it through. So what have we got now?

In school voting as it stands left our poor election committees holding an empty bag. There's so many very important and potentially quite dire logistical issues that the by-law writers did not consider. Also many more modern and practical options for in school voting aren't allowed because of it's limited scope.

Our highest respect must go to this year's election committees. They've had to work out all the missing logistical pieces so in school voting can be fairly, efficiently and securely implemented. Proper ballot boxes must go to and be returned quickly and securely from each school. Accurate updated voter lists for full time staff, LTO's and even OT's are needed for each one too. Everything must be carefully supervised to provide accuracy and accountability.

A virtual army of election workers and scrutineers, both at the voting sites, and later when the ballots are being tallied is required. A large crew of drivers and in some cases even taxis carrying the boxes back and forth across the city will also be necessary. On and on the list goes! When will everybody not be in class or all over the place? How can reasonable consistency, accountability, and security be assured when we can't afford coverage for all the election workers and scrutineers? What if you can't stay after school? Should there be much chaos and confusion on voting day, please don't blame the election committees for being impractical. They have certainly tried their best!

Since the by-law sets a fixed election date of May 11, that can't be changed. Teachers taking our students to the pro-life candlelight vigil on parliament hill won't be able to vote. Nor the coaches stuck with many games and tournaments they can't change. Any flexibility in scheduling an election date for practical reasons has now also been eliminated  by the flawed by-law that was passed!

Perhaps there isn't any date or location  that won't inconvenience some members or deny them the right to vote. Or is there? We have another big problem with the way the by-law was written. I suggested the election committees allow telephone or online voting. That way wherever you are, as long as you are near a phone or computer, at school or elsewhere, you can vote. It could be anytime during election day, and the tally could be computed instantly afterwards. Sound practical?

The by-law doesn't allow this. You must go to school, fill out paper ballots, and stick them in a box. Everybody must run around all day. Then the ballots need to be counted and recounted one by one. Lists need to be endlessly check and rechecked and so on and so forth. How nineteenth century!

Can't we hire Elections Canada? Many other large groups like ourselves do. They provide the service with great accuracy and expertise! Nope. They charge $10,000. How about a smaller honorarium to other third party union workers from the Toronto York Region Labour Council? We are a  member. They have great experience and can staff the election for us. Nope, still too much! Telephone or online voting which cost $3000 to $5000 wouldn't be affordable even if the by-law allowed it. Why?

Our flawed in school voting by-law was forwarded without any costing whatsoever! So now we are stuck with a large, modern organization like OECTA TSU carrying it out on the fly. Let's hope that none of the voting boxes are lost, misplaced or tampered with. What if the process breaks down or is questioned anywhere along the line? It might be a long time before you learn the results, and know they are fair and accurate!

I'm very glad that many more members will be able to vote this election. That's democracy in action! Still if I was responsible in anyway for this by-law I wouldn't be bragging about it on my election flyer this year. It's many flaws, oversights and limitations have simply exchanged one set of problems for another. Often the by-law, as it was written, is just very impractical, and even outdated in addressing the needs of a large, modern unit like ours. Last year at UAGM I tried to make some friendly amendments to address these concerns. Unfortunately, the push for in school voting seems to have been more political than practical and reasonably charged. Let's all try our best to have a good election despite the by-laws many flaws. Let's dialogue aferwards about how we can move forward and fix it during the year ahead. I will consider it an honour if you vote for me, David Chiarelli so I can help us get the job done right, in serving as your 3rd VP.




1 comment:

kev said...

Well said, David!
I didn't understand very well, though, why we can't pass to the 20st century? More than convenient and fast, it's environmental friendly! Please, what do we have to do to have it done electronically or by phone? It's a right that assist all the members to be able to vote and not be conditionned by a location or with so restricted time frame. As you said, let's dialogue and do the change for better and for everybody!

Ana Baptista

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