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August 3, 2009 | by  | in News |
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By-election FAIL; VUWSA: ‘Meh’

Students have labelled last week’s VUWSA by-election a joke after complaints over a constitutional breach were ignored, but the Returning Officer has failed to front up to criticism.

The online voting forms included the option of ‘No Confidence’ in every category, which was believed to be contrary to the VUWSA constitution, which reads: “In the event that there is only one candidate, for any one of these positions, or only five candidate for the executive, you may vote ‘no confidence’ for that position.”

The paper ballots only included No Confidence where only one candidate was standing.

ACT on Campus member and pro-VSM student Peter McCaffrey complained to Returning Officer Mark Maguire about the alleged breach, saying “the constitution as currently written clearly states that the ‘No Confidence’ option is only available when only one candidate is standing for a given position.”

McCaffrey said this was grounds for the election to be invalidated.

In a second email to Maguire, McCaffrey said: “We are in the outrageous situation of having two different ballot papers for the one election”. He again called on Maguire to invalidate the election.

The VUWSA election committee responded, acknowledging the by-election was not “strictly in accordance with the VUWSA constitution”.

The committee said the inclusion of No Confidence had happened on past ballots with minimal impact, and blamed the error on Catch Design, the company which designs and hosts the VUWSA and Salient websites and election voting forms.

President Jasmine Freemantle told Salient she understood Catch “advised No Confidence (should) be included for all positions”.

Catch disputed this, and told Salient they had been given less than a day to get the polling ready, and would normally be given two weeks.

“At approximately 4.30pm Friday 24 July 2009 [three days before the election was due to start] we questioned the use of No Confidence as an option where multiple candidates were standing for election, but were instructed to keep No Confidence in place for all positions,” Catch said.

Both paper and online voting forms were included in the election results, but the number of No Confidence votes cast in the disputed categories was not made public.

Despite numerous attempts to contact Maguire via phone and email, he did not respond to Salient’s request for further information on the No Confidence votes, or other matters.

Election Committee chair Jeremy Greenbrook-Held told Salient he was unable to comment because the election committee had been disbanded.

McCaffrey, in a third email to Maguire, said that not having this information was “an insult to democracy within VUWSA”.

He said the Returning Officer’s job was to carry out elections according to the constitution and count all votes, and these requirements had not been met.

In 2007, former VUWSA Treasurer and lawyer Graeme Edgeler said a basic part of the Returning Officer’s role was to communicate election information to Salient and students.

“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,” he said.

Salient banged its head against a desk in the office, weeping and muttering that at 71 years old, it “shouldn’t have to put up with this shit”.

At time of press, Salient was waiting for clarification on whether VUWSA’s treatment of the septuagenarian publication constituted elder abuse.

Official (but incomplete) results

The official results—not including No Confidence counts—as given to Salient at the time of press.

Vice-President (Administration)
1. Max Hardy = 225
2. Monica Dunkley = 153

Women’s Rights Officer
1. Caitlin Dunham = 167
2. Tracy Miles = 155
3. Lucy Deane = 122

Activities Officer
1. Guy Williams = 185
2. Mathew Martin = 141
3. Alexis Luck = 97

Environmental Officer
1. Zachary Dorner = 394
2. No Confidence = 131

International Officer
1. Luke Cao = 387
2. No Confidence = 134

Salient estimates there were 525 valid votes cast.

Past election bungles

In 2003 a switch in email servers meant students who had been previously enrolled did not receive online voting forms.

In May 2006 a candidate for International Officer was left off the electronic ballot. Then President Nick Kelly promised a review of how elections were run in general.

In the 2007 election the Returning Officer Andrea Reeves refused to clarify voter turnout to Salient.

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About the Author ()

The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

Comments (5)

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  1. Laws 101 says:

    Legally VUWSA should be deregistered as an Incorporated Society for not following it’s constitution for electing new members to its Executive…

  2. Gibbon says:

    Laws 101, how do we start the ball in motion?

  3. o hai says:

    read the constitution properly, ‘tards

  4. Martha Banks says:

    Why should they care. It’s just an uppity actoid being uppity.

  5. Harry Jones, From the Cotton Building says:

    Hi I would just like to say that I am not actually Harry Jones I am Bill English’s intern. I swim in his pool. Perpetuating da Patriachy since 1988 bitches

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