On February 26, the lone candidate for the VP Academic and University Affairs (VPAUA) race, Nikol Grishin, announced that she would be withdrawing from the race.
“It’s a decision that has been taken into serious consideration and thought, and one that was very difficult for me to make,” wrote Grishin in a Facebook post.
She added that she didn’t feel she could commit to the role as it “deserves someone who is not only passionate and knowledgeable, but also willing to put their heart and soul into this.”
This leaves the AMS in a bit of a pickle: there are now no candidates running for the VPAUA position.
Ahsan Sahibzada, the chief electoral officer for the AMS elections, confirmed that because of this new development, there will not be a VPAUA position on the ballot for this election.
“No one can run for right now … because the nomination period has already closed and we can't really accept impromptu nominations while the campaign period is going on,” he said.
The elections committee hasn't come to a final decision of how to move forward yet, but they’re leaning towards a special election that would likely take place before the end of March. However, no final decision will be made until the March 11 AMS Council meeting.
Led by Sahibzada, the Elections Committee will be able to create new procedures for the special election, as outlined by Section 9, Article 11 of AMS code.
“If it’s a special election, it would have some different rules,” Sahibzada said.
This will include the nomination period and polling hours. He surmised that they would change the nomination period from almost a month to around a week or two in order to speed up the process.
History of special & by-elections
The AMS hasn’t had a special election since 2008, according to a report sent to The Ubyssey by AMS Archivist Sheldon Goldfarb.
“The general election in 2008 included all five executive positions, including the VP administration position. However, because of irregularities, the Elections Administrator cancelled the VP Admin race and ordered a special election be held separately for that position,” the report says.
Seven candidates, including a few joke candidates, took part in the special election.
Another similar case was in 2017, when Daniel Lam resigned three months into his term as VPAUA. AMS Council appointed an interim VPAUA until they could hold a by-election in the fall, which current Board of Governors student representative and student Senator Max Holmes won.
When asked about the impact that a by-election has on turnout, Holmes said that it was lower than that of a normal election. Last year, turnout for the general AMS elections was 21.7 per cent. In Holmes’s by-election, turnout was 12 per cent, which he said was “pretty high” for only one position being elected.
“Hopefully we can maybe hit a higher barrier this time around,” he said.
He also theorized that a special election won’t discourage people from running, a thought potentially supported by the 2008 special election.
“If anything, I think it’s going to tell people, maybe there’s more of an opportunity here because there doesn't seem to be as many people interested,” Holmes said. “I think overall, I would be surprised if we see an uncontested race actually, I think that you're probably going to see more than one candidate.”
But Sahibzada was careful to note the differences between these two situations.
In the 2017 case, Lam had already taken office and the vacancy opened up during his term. By-elections can only happen if there’s a vacancy, according to AMS bylaws. Currently there is no vacancy, as the current VPAUA Julia Burnham will hold the position until her term ends on May 1.
“[As] there is no candidate for VPAUA right now … I can still hold a new special election before the executives take their position on May 1,” Sahibzada said.
This article was updated to include comments from Max Holmes and Sheldon Goldfarb.