By Derek Cornet
A low turnout and high abstention plagued the University of Regina Student’s Union (URSU) by-election on Sept. 25 and 26, but a president has been elected.
It was a tight race between URSU presidential hopefuls Tyler Gray and Nathan Sgrazzutti. Sgrazzutti pulled ahead and declared victory with a lead of only seven votes. The tight race has been overshadowed, however, by the by-election turnout and the number of people who abstained.
In the 2012 by-election, 835 people voted compared to the 2,121 people who cast a vote in the 2011 general election. Among those voters, 15 per cent abstained from voting in 2012, while in 2011, four per cent abstained. Both Gray and Sgrazzutti believe an orchestrated campaign to discourage voting contributed to the high abstention rate.
According to both men, rumours began circulating after the election that a past member had allegedly ran an abstention campaign against them.
“I don’t know why. I guess he decided it was in his best interests to run an abstention campaign against both of us,” said Sgrazzutti.
The past member in question is former president Kent Peterson, whom Sgrazzutti believes targeted Tyler Gray and himself during the by-election. Sgrazzutti said he may have been targeted because he didn’t agree with the “aggressive” stance taken by last years’ URSU.
Gray, the other candidate for URSU president, said that while he had no proof an abstention campaign occurred, he said he heard students had been encouraged not to vote for URSU president.
“I was a bit disappointed. More so around that perhaps I didn’t do the best job at communicating to Kent that I wasn’t trying to attack Kent as a person, but that I just disagreed with the methods on how he went about representing students,” said Gray.
When Peterson was told about the accusations, he denied his involvement in the high abstention rate and said he did not lead an abstention campaign.
“Given that many people, as you said, did indeed abstain, it's quite a compliment that ‘multiple’ individuals think I ran such a successful campaign. If I could lay claim to being such an effective organizer - I would,” Peterson replied in an email.
While this issue may not be resolved, the URSU has a new president regardless, and Sgrazzutti, 19, said his youth and passion will lead the student’s union in a new direction.