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October 8, 2007 | by  | in News |
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Returning Officer refuses to give Salient a comment

Denies election problems, despite voters’ claims

2432 voters turned out for the election, however hundreds of voters opted not to vote for some positions, with 813 voters choosing to abstain or only vote for one Publications Committee position, according to Salient’s calculations.

Returning Officer Andrea Reeves refused to clarify the voter turnout, telling Salient: “Any information you have access to is outside the Student Association. If you can’t find the information you want then one could only assume I don’t want to give you access to it.”

Reeves has repeatedly refused to comment to Salient or provide requested information, including regarding a rumoured recount of Council Rep votes.

Last Wednesday, she wrote on the Salient website: “That’s amazing how you seem to know [about the recount] when nobody else does, including my self, the scrutineer, the election committee and three impartial arbitrators who, at the moment haven’t been appointed as there have been NO disputed made”.

Salient received information that the recount was lodged that same day by Council Rep candidate Sonny Thomas. Thomas told Salient: ”I think [that margin’s] too small not to call a recount. With over 200 paper ballets cast there is room for error – I just want to be certain. If the vote stands, Chris Bishop has my full support.”

However, it was later disclosed to Salient that Thomas had not asked for a recount during the set period of time.

Lawyer and former VUWSA Treasurer Graeme Edgeler, who has helped Salient decode the Constitution throughout the election, says the Returning Officer would generally be willing to communicate election information to Salient and students – a basic part of the role. “Not only should students just have a basic right to know how many people voted in their election, this information is important in assessing whether the vote tally is actually valid.”

Reeves also told Salient that she had had no issues during the election, despite contrary claims by voters, candidates and the University.

Some voters had issues voting online, which led to them protesting by voting for Salient News Editor Laura McQuillan on paper ballots – nullifying their ballots.

President-elect Joel Cosgrove and Welfare Vice President-elect Melissa Barnard were told by Reeves they couldn’t stand for election as they were not on the list of students provided to her by the University. The issue was resolved shortly before nominations closed, and both candidates were declared eligible to stand as they had full-year VUWSA membership. The issue was that both were first-trimester-only students, and the University provided only currently-enrolled students’ details to the Returning Officer.

A number of voters also told Salient they were unable to vote due to the first-trimester-only issue, or because they were enrolled in full-year or postgraduate papers. When Salient asked Reeves about this, she responded: “No, I have had no problems and I’m not sure where you got your information from but it is incorrect.”

However, the University confirmed that there were issues with some students being unable to vote. During the election period, Central Student Administration Director Pam Thorburn told Salient, “the information given to the Returning Officer for 2007 included all currently enrolled students. That is any student who is registered in an ongoing course that has not been graded yet. This includes students enrolled in full year courses and Masters students.”

“The Returning Officer has raised approximately three examples of ‘missing’ students. These students were only enrolled for the first trimester and therefore had no current enrolment,” said Thorburn.

“Central Student Administration staff did offer to provide a new listing of all 2007 students regardless of the end date of study but was advised by the Returning Officer that this would not be required.”

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About the Author ()

With her take-no-prisoners, kick-ass attitude, former News Editor Laura McQuillan adequately makes up for her lack of stature. Roaming the corridors (and underground tunnels) of the University by day, and hunting vampires and Nazi war criminals by night, McQuillan will stop at nothing to bring you the freshest news.

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