AUS VP External race comes down to a single vote

This year’s AUS election saw three races being decided by narrow margins, with the VP External race determined by a single vote.

There were three candidates in the race for AUS VP External, and Mishal Tahir’s victory came down to a single vote more than Chris Hakim and only three votes more than Jamie Gill. 

The AUS president and VP Internal were elected with similarly small margins. Tomo Yamaguchi was elected AUS president with only 22 votes more than her competitor, Akhil Jobanputra. Liam Simpson won the the race for VP Internal by only 11 votes over Suyesha Dutta. 

The other six positions were uncontested.

“It’s unprecedented,” said AUS elections coordinator Filza Raza of the tight margins between the VP External candidates. “It was definitely a shock to everybody, and especially a shock to the candidates.”

Hakim was not as surprised by how close the races were simply because of who were running.

“When I went [into the race], I was just saying to myself that this race was going to be hella close,” said Hakim, referring to the experience and popularity of his two competitors. “We all spent time with the AUS and we all kind of know what’s going on, what needs improvement and what’s working well.”

Current AUS VP Internal Natasha Rygnestad-Stahl noted that while the single-vote margin was the closest recorded result, the margins in the other competitive races were not abnormal compared to similar results in last year’s elections. According to her, the close races are linked to how faculty-level elections are structured in general.

“We very much rely on candidates to advertise the elections for us,” said Rygnestad-Stahl, citing the convenience and logistical concerns of advertising an election for a large and decentralized faculty such as theirs.

“You end up with a pool of candidates who are all super passionate and really want it, and have very distinct circles of social relations on campus with very minimal overlap,” she said. “People are more likely to find out if they’re in the circle of one of the candidates rather than finding out about it from the AUS.”

While Rygnestad-Stahl suggested that the narrow vote margins had more to do with the quality of the candidates than low turnout did, she and Raza both also stressed the importance of increasing turnout in order to combat the “general apathy” they see for constituency elections.

Max Holmes, AMS Elections Administrator for the 2016-17 school year, confirmed that no appeals of the AUS elections results had been filed to the AMS elections committee, which oversees constituency elections.

This year's election saw a relatively low voter turnout of 7.5 per cent, but still topped the 2016 turnout rate of 5.7 per cent.

“We’re happy that we improved, but definitely there’s much more room for improvement and I hope that, in the future, we do work on that,” said Raza, citing the nine per cent turnout rate reached in the 2015 AUS elections as a goal for next year.

Hakim — who declined to comment on whether or not he or other candidates had considered appealing the results — further echoed concerns for voter apathy and for finding an effective way to reach a faculty of over 14,000 students. He made it clear that he wants to use this year as an example of the importance of getting out to vote in constituency elections.

“The next time someone tells me that one vote won’t count, I’m going to say, ‘Oh, let me tell you a story,’” said Hakim. “I know that it does first-hand.” 

This article has been updated to include comment from this year's AMS Elections Administrator, Max Holmes.