AMS Elections results analysis: High voter turnout, higher abstention rates

For the first time since 2017, students have elected someone from outside the AMS (and a “joke” candidate) to serve as their AMS president: Remy the Rat, (Esmé Decker), will take control of the proverbial AMS kitchen starting May 1. 

This year’s AMS elections also saw four referendum questions pass — mostly with wide margins — and some interesting abstention trends. Here are some key takeaways from the unofficial election results. Results will be approved and made official at the next AMS Council meeting on March 22.

Over 20 per cent of students turned out to vote

This year’s AMS elections saw a 22.9 per cent voter turnout — or 14,065 students. This is the second highest voter turnout in AMS history, according to AMS Elections Administrator Max Holmes. Last year’s elections saw a turnout of 17.4 per cent, and the year before the AMS saw a voter turnout of just 6.9 per cent.

Notably, Holmes said more students voted in this year’s presidential race than any other in AMS history, with over 10,000 students casting a vote in that race. 

The AMS implemented a new voting system

AMS elections switched from the Condorcet system to using an instant run-off, or Single Transferable Vote, system this election. Under this system, voters have the ability to rank any of the candidates in order of preference. When calculating the results, the system first calculates all of the voters that placed each candidate as their first choice. 

As an example, in the presidential race, 4,509 voters ranked Ben Du as their first choice, 1,396 ranked ChatGPT as their first choice and 4,932 ranked Remy the Rat as their first choice. Since ChatGPT is the lowest in first preference votes, it was eliminated.

However, in order to make the final decision as representative as possible of voter preferences, the voters who ranked ChatGPT first had their votes transferred to the candidate they ranked second. 

In the case of the presidential race, 709 of the ChatGPT voters ranked Remy the Rat as their second choice, while 506 ranked Ben Du as their second choice. Voters did not have to rank all of the candidates, so the 181 people who just ranked ChatGPT’s votes were not passed on to any candidate. 

Since Remy the Rat came out with the most votes and was able to pass the 50 per cent threshold needed to win (5,419 votes) with 5,641 votes, Remy was elected president.

Lots of voters abstained

Voters had the option to abstain for every race in this year’s elections, and 53 per cent of voters abstained for the VP administration race — the most contested AMS executive race with five candidates. 

The rest of the executive races also had fairly significant rates of abstention — 44.2 per cent of voters abstained in the VP finance race, 42.2 per cent in the VP external race, 36.7 per cent in the VP AUA race and 23 per cent in the AMS president race.

Nearly half of all UBC Vancouver student voters abstained from voting in the Board of Governors and Senate races.

Uncontested candidates elected easily

Two executive positions were uncontested this year — Kamil Kanji for VP academic and university affairs and Tina Tong for VP external. In the case of uncontested races, voters can choose ‘yes’ ‘no,’ or ‘abstain.’ Both candidates were elected with wide majorities, with Kanji receiving 80.7 per cent ‘yes’ votes, and Tong receiving  77.1 per cent ‘yes’ votes. 

Abstention rates were high for the uncontested candidate races, but not higher than abstention rates for the most contested executive race, VP administration. 

All referendum questions passed, with varying levels of approval

The nailbiter of this year’s elections — besides the presidential race — was the fate of the AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan. Voters turned out, and 8,907 voted in favour of the $52.50 fee increase, while 3,693 voted against. 1,465 voters abstained, the lowest abstention rate of all questions on the ballot this year.

Most of the referendum questions passed fairly easily, with a referendum on bylaw changes and the creation of an Indigenous constituency seeing 85.9 per cent ‘yes’ votes, the AMS/GSS Health & Dental Plan fee increase seeing 70.1 per cent ‘yes’ votes, the gender-affirming care fee increase seeing 65.5 per cent ‘yes’ votes, and the Bike Kitchen fee increase seeing 59.9 per cent ‘yes’ votes.

The abstention rates graph in this article has been updated to reflect corrected Board of Governors and Senate abstention rates.