Category: Students Union Petition
This petition is to express disappointment with the Union’s handling of the recent bye-election for the role of President. Our Union, with the support of the National Union of Students (NUS), invalidated hundreds of students' votes by removing the ‘Re-Open Nominations’ (RON) option from the ballot paper. This follows numerous other controversies and scandals over the past few years. As such, we have serious concerns with the democratic deficit at the heart of our Union.
In the bye-election of June 2020 our Union chose to disqualify RON in the election for the role of President. This was after all votes had been cast and the campaigning period had ended. The decision was made after an investigation into electoral conduct and was upheld by the NUS. However, the RON campaign expresses they were not contacted to verify these claims. Furthermore, the campaign received no warnings about any possible breach of election rules.
The decision to remove RON contradicts Union bye-laws which state that ‘Re-open Nominations shall be an option in all elections’ (Democracy Bye-Law, 2.4). The bye-law also states RON is an option, not a candidate, while point 9.2 states that all candidates must follow the rules. Therefore, RON is not regulated by those rules. Even if they were, the RON campaign has expressed that it followed all rules regardless and the Union have failed to produce evidence to the contrary. It should also be noted Spineless, the independent student newspaper, have exposed that the returning officer is the same one who voided the 58% of votes that went to RON in the Durham election.
The released count sheet shows that 181 non-transferable votes were made. This means 181 students voted RON with no second preference, any student who voted RON with a second preference subsequently had their votes reallocated. The count sheet shown was the second round of voting with all of RON’s votes reallocated. This means RON may have finished higher than the 4th place shown as it is missing a significant portion of the vote which was reallocated to the candidates. We believe students have a right to see the original count sheet before any reallocation of the RON vote took place.
We further note that several College JCRs, societies, students and incoming Part Time Officers have released statements on the issue. We thank them for their support in standing up for the students they represent. We would also like to note some colleges threatening to disaffiliate from the Union and withdraw from freshers week, this mirrors similar actions at Durham after their removal of the RON vote.
Whilst other petitions such as on the Sugarhouse have had great success in galvanising the student body and creating positive change, others have not. The petition on elected trustees and reintroducing college sport, the latter of which is the most signed petition in Union history, have had no subsequent progress to our knowledge. This follows the failure of the Union to implement several motions from the last Annual General Meeting. This litany of failures and the exclusion of hundreds of votes for RON means we believe there is a serious democratic deficit at the heart of our Union. We hope that the implementation of the other petitions, motions, and below requests can help to reduce this deficit.
As such we are requesting the following:
We would also welcome statements from the incoming and outgoing FTO team on this issue. We appreciate this is a complicated issue where not all facts are readily available, but we would like to know the views of our elected representatives. It should be noted that incoming officers at Durham SU made a statement following the disqualification of their RON vote.
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