Democracy Committee Minutes - 02/11

Minutes of a meeting of the Democracy Committee held on 2nd November 2020 covering Michaelmas Elections and review of the By-Laws.

Present:

  • Torkel Loman, Returning Officer (Chair)
  • Charlie Innes, Student Council Chair
  • Josh Jones
  • Richard Danylyuk
  • Ben Margolis, Chair of SU Executive
  1. Upcoming Michaelmas elections
    1. Update

The committee reviewed promotional material for the elections and the election website.

  1. Meetings schedule

The committee scheduled meetings for the elections period:

  • Meeting during the period between the end of nominations and the start of campaigning – Doodle poll to be circulated for this
  • Daily meeting provisionally booked in during the voting period – Doodle poll to be circulated for this
  • 6-8pm on Thursday 19th

 

  1. Review of last year’s NUS delegate elections

The Returning Officer fed back on meeting with a candidate from last year’s NUS delegate by-election to discuss lessons to be learnt for controversy and handling of complaint last year. The committee resolved to:

  • Publish clearly in advance of the election the way that the voting system for NUS elections, with a gender quota in a Single Transferable Vote election (STV) would be interpreted. (see below)
  • Increase transparency about the Democracy Committee including its membership and processes. A full record of all decisions made during election cycles would be published with a rationale before or as decisions took effect, in keeping with the previous practise of CUSU’s Elections Committee regarding rulings on rules breaches.
  • Closely monitor the culture of elections in Cambridge SU, and consider future actions that could be taken to ensure an open and democratic culture in the SU’s democratic processes.

 

  1. Count system for gender balanced STV elections

The committee considered two alternative systems for applying a gender quota to STV ballots, as is required by the NUS. NUS guidance was that individual SUs had discretion over which system to apply.

  • Option 1: Dual Counts. This is the NUS recommended approach, and the approach taken by CUSU elections in the past. In this system, a count is first run for the number of places which must be filled by women, with only women candidates included. A second count is then run for the remaining places, with all candidates included except those who were elected in the first count.
  • Option 2: Single Count. In this method, the election is conducted as per a standard STV election with additional provisos that:
  1. If excluding a woman candidate would mean there are not enough remaining women to fill the gender quota (half available places rounded down), they are passed over and the candidate with the next lowest number of votes is excluded.
  2. If at any point candidates who do not define as women have won half the available places (rounded up), all remaining candidates who do not self-define as women are excluded and then the count proceeds as normal.

The Committee resolved that option 2 was the preferred option, since option 1 could result in preferences given to candidates elected in the first round (and therefore subsequently transferred in full in the second round) having an increased weighting, and that this could create the perception of unfairness. The Committee noted that option 2 was the marginally more complicated of the options to explain, and resolved to improve documentation available on the website and explore the possibility of worked examples and/or graphics to explain how the election would be counted.

 

  1. Review of By-Laws

The Committee resolved to revisit reviewing the By-Laws at its next meeting, with the intention of creating a project plan for work to take place in Lent term.

 

  1. Any Other Business

The Committee noted that elected candidates for NUS delegates positions would be expected to act in accordance with SU policy unless they had run on a contradictory platform. It was decided to interpret the platform on which a candidate had run as the contents of their manifesto only, and that it would be for the Democracy Committee to inform the elected students of where the Committee considered them to meet this requirement. This would be explained in the candidates’ briefing.

 

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