1) Get a lead and maintain it
Voters will rank every candidate from one to seven. Round one simply indicates everyone’s first choice on the ballot, and the candidate with the least amount of first place votes is knocked out. For the rest of the rounds, the ballots for losing candidates are redistributed to their top remaining preference. This continues until a candidate reaches more than 50 per cent of the vote.
However, the preferential voting system has historically meant far less than you think it has. In the last five years, only one year has had candidates move position in the standings from round one to the end of the process. The largest of these was Sarah Jama who moved two spots from fourth to second overall in the 2016 election.
Close calls do happen. Teddy Saull’s 68-vote lead over Jacob Brodka in the first round of the 2014 election decreased to 66 and 11 in rounds two and three, respectively. This still ended in a 101 vote win for Saull in the final round.
Having a solid base of first place votes has shown to be important for momentum, and it is unlikely that a candidate that relies on votes coming from the preferential system will win.
However, with such a large number of candidates this year, the possibilities for overlap between platforms and voter bases are incredibly high. This year has the most amount of candidates since the 2013 election, which also had seven. This year has a higher than usual possibility for a candidate in first place during the first round to be upset in the later rounds.
2) Have MSU experience
David Campbell went from second place in 2012’s presidentials to vice-president (Administration) to winning the presidency in the first round in 2013. He was the only candidate in the last five years to win at any point earlier than the final round. Ehima Osazuwa was involved with the Student Representatives Assembly before winning in 2015. Justin Monaco-Barnes’ experience with the Underground represented some unconventional MSU qualifications before winning in 2016. Chukky Ibe was involved with the SRA, MSU Diversity Services and the Student Success Centre prior to his win in 2017.
The one exception to this was Saull in 2014 who noted, “I had never been a part of politics before, except for watching The Ides of March,” in his interview with the Silhouette after winning. He was the president of student council in high school and was involved as a Community Advisor for Hedden and Bates, but was still a candidate from outside of the MSU.
You can win as an outsider, but it has generally taken a lot of work and close calls.
This year features four candidates with SRA experience, one with unique MSU experience and two without any MSU experience.
3) There is an increasing need to have one big point
Campbell replied, “Study space, space in general on campus and library hours,” when asked to identify one issue that was the most important to students. Saull promoted the theme of community and made a few points off of this such as off-campus security, the student life enhancement fund and a bigger Frost Week.
Osazuwa’s run arguably changed the dynamics of MSU presidentials. The substantial focus on tuition advocacy resulted in criticism that mostly revolved around how alternative solutions may be better rather than the idea itself. Monaco-Barnes expanded on this with his unique background by promoting the idea of more affordable courseware being printed through Underground. Ibe’s main point of better WiFi completely overrode the lack of consulting on his other points because it was a point so prominently featured on his and so minimal on everyone else’s.
It is possible to have complete, top-to-bottom platforms win, and having one main point does not mean that the rest of the ideas are weak by any means. It is simply a great way to get people interested in your campaign and to express what your top priority is in a long list of ideas.
This year, oddly enough, appears to be going back to old presidential tendencies with the lack of any one candidate heavily promoting one idea. Each seem to promote themselves as the brand or some tagline or theme with multiple platform points under that. We will see how this develops during the MSU debate on Jan. 18 and our debate on Jan. 21.
4) How important is gender?
In a broader look at the statistics since the 1970s to present done by the Silhouette last year, it was mentioned that only 13 per cent of president elects have been female. It took 22 years to break a streak of male presidents with Mary Koziol in 2010. There have only been four women presidents elected in the history of the MSU.
In a Silhouette article in 2013 addressing the lack of women running for president, Koziol noted, “I was told repeatedly not to put women’s issues at the forefront of my platform. I think that’s an interesting dynamic — that it’s okay to be female and run for an election, but you have to be careful about how proud you are about being female.”
In 2014, the Silhouette noted that McMaster ranked eighth out of nine major research universities in Ontario for equal gender representation in student government.
Koziol appeared again in a similar Silhouette article in 2015 stating, “It’s challenging to say what the MSU could be doing differently. … The ultimate answer is we need a culture shift; one in which people who are traditionally underrepresented feel supported and safe in pursuing positions of influence.”
Another article in 2016 about women in the MSU mentioned Karen Bird, professor of political science at McMaster, who noted, “It is so puzzling that it is the case for local politics and for young women. Women are the majority in most desciples now, at least across the university. Women tend to do better in their GPA. They have all the skills and all the ability but there is still something that is keeping women from stepping forward.”
There have been no female presidents in the last five years. It is statistically likely that either this point or the second point about MSU experience will break this year considering all of the candidates with SRA experience are women and only one out of the remaining three have any MSU experience.