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Low voter turnout could invalidate referendum questions

VP of Student Services fears voter turnout could affect students having their U-Pass

The chances of losing the U-Pass are slim, but they do exist and need to be addressed.
The chances of losing the U-Pass are slim, but they do exist and need to be addressed.
Image Credits: Alfred Zhang

With the fate of the U-Pass being decided at this year’s referendum, it is important to acknowledge that the worst case scenario is that students will lose their U-Pass. While Simon Fraser Student Society board members confident in a “yes” vote, that might not be their biggest concern in keeping the U-Pass for student.


With the reduced amount of candidates this year — roughly half the amount of last year — some fear that voter turnout will be lower than it has been the last few years. While the candidates will be elected regardless, this low number could affect whether or not the referendum questions will be counted as valid.


          This is because of Bylaw 17.8, which states that “No referendum shall be deemed valid or binding on the Society unless a minimum of five (5) percent of the members in good standing of the Society have cast ballots in the referendum.”


          “The concern we have is that not enough people will vote for it,” said Binesh. “We need at least five percent of students to vote. Even if you get a yes vote and 99 percent majority but less than five percent of eligible cast ballots, it doesn’t count. It’s not binding, we lose the U-Pass.”


          Binesh went on to say that if the election happened today, he doesn’t personally believe that they’d have the support for the referendum proposal to go through.  


          The SFSS’ current member registry lists 24,001 students, meaning that the SFSS will need 1,201 students to vote in order for the referendum to be considered valid.


          The referendum question is about raising the fees of the U-Pass by $1.50 for the next two years, seeing it go from $38 to $41 overall. This was the agreement reached by TransLink and post-secondary institutions in BC, and is happening because their previous deal from 2013 has expired.


          The other referendum question on the ballot is whether or not to terminate the student levy for Schools Building Schools, a decision which VP External Relations Kathleen Yang said is based on the two parties mutually deciding to part from each other.


          While Binesh is worried about the number of students voting, he feels confident in the way in which students will cast their ballot.


We know we have a lot of student who live three zones away — we’re a commuter school, that’s why a universal transit pass makes sense,” he said.


“I would be shocked if someone who lived three zones away said that $41 is too much to pay for a transit pass.”


          Should the worst-case scenario come true, the reality is that students would likely lose their U-Pass. If that happens, getting it back will not be an easy thing to do. According to Binesh, it could not happen until the proposed agreement with TransLink ended in two years, meaning that it would not be until 2018 when it would be discussed again.  


          While there has been no referendum that didn’t meet quorum in recent years, Binesh and others fear that complacency will creep in, and that will the deciding factor.


          We’re confident that students will show their support,” said Binesh. “We’re just worried that students will think it’s a no-brainer or an easy win and they’ll flake out saying ‘I don’t need to, everyone else will.’ Usually that’s when surprises happen and we have unfortunate realities.”