By Joyce Lee, Western University, Director of Community Outreach
In an effort to extend our chapter’s network in London, we designated one chapter member to run in the London Youth Advisory Council’s (LYAC) election. This person would be the Youth Councillor for Western’s ward. We were excited for this new opportunity to meet young leaders in our community; however, we failed in being too single-minded in our motivation to win.
The election planning committee indicated that we could collect votes ahead of time, and then submit ballots during the election period. My team created a Google form clearly indicating that in completing the form, they were giving our campaign team consent to submit a vote for me on their behalf. As such, we could not only account for every supporter’s vote, but also control when it would be cast in the race. Since preliminary results were to be released each evening in the election period, our plan was to submit votes slowly at the beginning of the week so not to give away our strong position in the race. We would then work around the clock in the last 48 hours to submit the majority of my votes.
We failed to see that to someone that wasn’t in our chapter, this looked like a failing campaign that led to a desperate attempt to stuff the ballot box. Consequently and unsurprisingly, the candidate that lost by a mere 15 votes called for a recount. After a long, three-week ordeal, the election was awarded to the latter candidate due to inconsistencies discovered with the votes I had received.
Looking back, we realized we had developed tunnel vision; we failed to be cognizant of the fact that we had to be accountable to the LYAC’s election procedures and what was expected of us. By not consulting the election planning committee about our campaign strategy, we took the committee and the runner-up by surprise. We had lost sight of our original goal of forging meaningful connections with youth in our community behind a shortsighted, singleminded desire to win a race.
Fortunately, we were able to maintain a relationship with the LYAC, in spite of the circumstances. Since then, the LYAC has asked us to help them come up with a system to put in place for next year’s election. What we learned from this experience is something we continually strive to learn with EWB: to keep sight of our long-term goals so not to be hindered by our short-term goals. While we are unsure of our next steps with the LYAC, this election has given us a unique relationship with them that we hope to mutually benefit from as we continue to advocate, educate and fundraise in London on a larger scale outside of the university.