Union Council last week passed a paper calling on clarification of election rules and establishment of an appeals process for complaints, following concerns over cheating in this year’s Leadership Elections.
The paper was proposed by Kelvin Zhang, a first year computing student, and seconded by a number of members of Council. It cited a number of instances in this year’s election cycle in which students had breached election rules through use of bribery and existing mailing lists. The paper mandated the creation of a formal appeals process, recommended improved communication between students and the Deputy Returning Officers/Returning Officer (DRO/RO), and stated election rules should be clearly outlined to candidates.
Speaking to Felix during the leadership elections, Zhang said the complaints process was “not transparent at all”, and that “much needs to be done to improve it”.
He told Felix: “[students] aren’t updated about how their complaints have been dealt with…I find it absurd how there are candidates with clear bribery on their manifesto which have not been disqualified…the most frustrating examples are when entire mailing lists are spammed by a candidate who only receive a warning.”
Currently, students making or receiving a complaint can appeal to the DROs, but decisions made by the RO are final. An appeal process was in place until 2012, when it was removed due to the length of time such appeals could take. Past instances saw election results being delayed by weeks as appeals were processed.
Speaking in Council, Union President Alex Chippy Compton said the need for a fair and just election was “why we have an independent returning officer, who is not involved with the Union at all.”
During this year’s Leadership Election cycle, which saw campaigning running from 2nd to 9th March, a number of students raised issues with candidates going against the election rules outlined in their candidate packs. Candidates running for positions in Clubs, Societies and Project (CSP) elections, in particular Finance Society and Machine Learning Society, were among those singled out for breaching campaigning rules.
Following complaints, at last seven candidates were disqualified from the Leadership Elections following “persistent breaking of rules and acting against [ICU’s] values despite warnings.”
However, a number of students who spoke to Felix identified other candidates who were not disqualified, despite complaints being raised. Furthermore, it is believed some candidates were disqualified from running for positions within CSPs but allowed to run for positions within constituent unions during the same election cycle.
Speaking to Felix earlier in the month, a Union representative said they had experienced “about the expected number of complaints this year”. They went on to say: “The DROs have been dealing with them swiftly and effectively; candidates should bear in mind this is not always visible from the outside.”