Ruling on Election for Mathematics (UG) Subject Representative

The Democracy Committee has received further concerns from three students about the conduct of the election for Mathematics (UG) Representative. Please see our initial statement on this election for an explanation of earlier decisions taken by the Committee in relation to this ballot. The concerns raised suggest that the conduct of this election has led to unfairness in the result, and request that the election be held again.

Due to an administrative error made by the University in informing the SU of student eligibility for representative roles, a candidate in the election was found to be ineligible after voting had opened. This candidate was therefore disqualified through no fault of their own. All eligible voters were made aware of this via email from the Faculty of Mathematics, and a statement to all students was made available on the SU website, linked from the main voting page as “Election Rules and Rulings”.

This disqualification was handled in accordance with the procedure for withdrawals after the deadline for nominations specified in the rules used by the SU for the conduct of elections by the Single Transferable Vote. The SU’s By-Laws specify that such elections shall be conducted according to Electoral Reform Society (1997) How to conduct an election by the Single Transferable Vote, 3rd Ed, with the relevant section being 3.d.:

The withdrawal of candidates after nomination day up to the time of the commencement of the count does not necessitate a postponement of the election, since preferences for such candidates are merely passed over during the count without disadvantage to any elector.

This means that the ballot paper was left unchanged after that deadline, and preferences cast for a disqualified candidate are passed over for the next highest preference. For instance, where a voter placed a disqualified candidate as their first preference, their ballot would be counted as if their second preference had been their first preference. Where voters have followed the rubric which appeared on the ballot and ranked the candidates in descending order of preference this causes no disadvantage to eligible candidates or to voters who preferenced the disqualified candidate. Voters only have one vote each and therefore cannot vote for pairs of candidates or similar.

Some students who contacted us also mentioned an error in the closing time of the elections. We recognise this was an unfortunate error and regret any confusion caused. The Committee reviewed this matter in advance of the election counts and made a statement which is available here.

We have also received other feedback regarding the use of the voting platform and whether more could be done to ensure that voters understood the nature of the voting system, including that preferences should be ranked and that each voter has only one vote and it is therefore not possible to cast a vote for a pair or similar. The Committee takes very seriously concerns about transparency of elections and ease of participation, and keeps the information provided to voters and the ballot rubric under constant review. Prior to the elections, an explanation of STV counting was posted on the website, and the Committee will consider other ways in which such information could be clearer or more accessible in advance of future SU elections.

The Democracy Committee has resolved that the election for Mathematics Representative (UG) was fairly conducted and that no further action should be taken on this ballot.