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July 31, 2006 | by  | in News |
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No confidence loses narrowly at by-election

TWO NEWBIES were elected to the VUWSA executive last week, in a byelection again tainted by problems with the online voting system.

The voting problems were similar to a previous by-election, where some students who enrolled before 2004 did not receive the email invitation to vote.

Returns Officer Ryan Bridge admits that the problem was expected, but the online voting method was selected because of the 74% increase in voter turnout since it was introduced.

In anticipation of the problems, “clear instructions” were given before voting began for students who do not receive the email. Students had to contact the VUWSA office and leave their details in order to be sent the link. Amusingly, two members of the current executive were among those who did not initially receive the email.

“[Post grad] students seem to be the only people [experiencing] the problem,” Bridge says. According the Bridge, the issue was due to problems with the list of email addresses provided by the University. Those enrolled before 2004 were registered on a different email system to more recently enrolled students.

When questioned last week regarding the problem, the University’s Services Manager Des Kelly replied, “It’s the first I’ve heard of it.”

Former VUWSA President Jeremy Greenbrook was also among those who did not receive the email, but was eventually able to vote. He says it was “obviously a little bit of a flaw, and I hope its something VUWSA sorts out before the general election.”

However, Bridge says the current system will continue to be used for future elections.

Both Heleyni Pratley and Alexander Neilson – the only two candidates to run – were elected to the two vacant positions on the VUWSA executive, Campaigns and Activities Officer. Results released late Thursday afternoon showed a voter turnout of 488, almost 100 less than that of the last by-election. Neilson received 231 votes, while 221 votes were cast for Pratley.

Neilson admitted he was disappointed at his margin over the no confidence category, which received 178 votes. However, he adds that he “was surprised I beat Heleyni [given her experience].”

Perhaps illustrative of the amount of interest voters had in the by-election, just over a quarter of students who had voted requested to be notified of the results by email.

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  1. Alphabet Soup says:

    Some questions:
    If Ryan knew about the problem, why did it still occur? Shouldn’t he have talked to the university about getting it sorted? Or got minnows to sort through and change all the @scs.vuw.ac.nz email addresses to @student.vuw.ac.nz
    Where any steps taken to make sure those who had complained at the last election were automatically sent one out this election? I complained last election, and got sent a link – why wasn’t one automatically sent to me this time?
    How were students affected by the problem meant to know how to solve it by talking to VUWSA? There was no advertising of this at all.
    Where were the physical polling booths? (as required by the VUWSA constitution I read somewhere – possibly Gareth’s blog)
    Where were the candidate profiles in Salient? Standard practice for every election, but where was it this time? Isn’t it required to be in there?
    Where was the advertising of the election? Did either candidate actually run a campaign?

    Why have none of these questions been raised? If Salient wants to have news coverage and hold VUWSA to account, then these questions need to be asked. It is not acceptable that Ryan Bridges gets away with doing a poor job simply because Salient does not do its job. C’mon Salient, actually report the issues.

    James, Nicola -> If you want to do your job properly, then ask these questions. Otherwise, you should just throw in your editorial independence, as VUWSA wants to do.

  2. Nicola says:

    Thank you for raising those concerns Mr Soup. As was stated in Seonah’s article, the reason nothing was done about the email problems was because the Returns Officer believed the new system was beneficial because of the increase in voter turnout across the board. While this may have excluded some (mainly postgraduate students) from getting the email, the logic was that if people really wanted to vote they would come to VUWSA. It was maintained by Bridge that the problem was the University’s, not VUWSA’s.

    You’re entirely correct. It’s simply not good enough. But I hardly think it is fair to accuse Salient of not reporting on these issues. The article above is proof of that. At the same time it’s not fair to string up an over worked and under paid Returns Officer for what is a wider problem.

    As for campaigns, I didn’t see any either. And I’m paid to pay attention. But that perhaps is more of a sad indictment of student participation of VUWSA than anything else.

  3. And we are not required to write candidate profiles for by-elections. We do usually, but a third by-election with such minimal interest in it hardly warranted too much attention.
    This article covers the current issues, but rest assured closer to the time of the general Exec election it will be looked into.

  4. Greg says:

    The job of Returning officer is a shitter. Trust me, I’ve done it. I would have a guess that Ryan was shafted around by the university on getting the emails, shafted by VUWSA with a lack of budget to actually go through the database himself and change all “scs” to “student”, and shafted by the company who would demand more bling for that.

    A few points:
    From memory, the Returning Officer is required by the constitution to ensure that Salient has candidate profiles. Not the responsibility of Salient to organise it, or to really do anything about it, except print it. I think it may also be that the Returning Officer has to ensure Salient gets paid for it (at advertising rates).
    Physical polling booths are indeed required under the constitution. – But the company’s system would have been hard to work with physical polling booths. (raising the question whether the company should have been used in the first place, but that too would have been out of Ryan’s hands)
    And expecting people to go from other campuses to VUWSA to be able to access their right to vote is not good enough. Many post-grad students already have enough on their schedule. And expecting people to just know that that was required is a bit of a stretch, especially given the lack of advertising that a by-election was taking place. I didn’t have time last week at all and thus didn’t get to vote.

    All in all, about what I’ve come to expect from VUWSA. Ryan needs to shoulder some of the blame, but definitely not all. VUWSA, VUW and the company need to take most of it.

  5. blogetee says:

    greg the job of returning office is a shitter because you are crap. and you dress badly too.

    however you are right when you say that “this is what I have come to expect from VUWSA”.

    on the other hand who gives a flying F*** out which 2 muppets of 2 muppets got on the executive??!!!

  6. Greg says:

    This coming from someone who cannot keep the spelling of their pseudonym constant.

    Blogetee (as you now spell it) -> have you actually tried to do it? Do you have any idea of the work it involves? Or do you just go and make unsubstantiated comments and hide behind your little pseudonym? I hope you get exposed, I really do. You are pathetic. At least Nick O’Kane has the guts to put his name next to his comments.

    As the Returning Officer, you have every candidate, stressed out, trying to maximise their advantage and blaming you for every mistake or thing that gets in their way (like the rules), even if it is out of your hands. The pay is shit, so you have no motivation, and you get attacked constantly from the people you are trying to help. Shit job.
    Ryan is getting the same treatment here. And one of the reasons I think some of those questions should be asked is so that he actually has an opportunity to defend himself. I am sure he did the best he could in a shit situation.

    I wish Ryan the best in getting this sorted out before the general election.

  7. blogatte says:

    if it is so crap why did you try and do it then? if the pay is crap why did you do it? if you didn’t care then why bother?
    it cant be too stressful. there aren’t too many candidtaes. certainly weren’t this time around.

  8. Greg says:

    Didn’t know how much I would have to do before hand. Or how much bitching would happen. I was doing a general election with 40-50 candidates.

    And I note that, yet again, you’ve changed the spelling of your name…

  9. blogalatte says:

    there weren’t 40-50 candidates in your election stephens you liar

    yes it’s a big conspiracy theory. i changed the spelling of my name.
    like the word salient, “blogette” can have many derivations

    or maybe there is more than one of me???!!!

  10. Jono Newton says:

    haha ok not only did she change her name but linked to Gareth’s site rofl wtf…

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