Sunday, 28 February 2010

The end and a new beginning

I will not be using Blogger for this blog anymore. I have been on here for a long time, but I now feel the design and layout aspects are too restrictive. The plugins don't always meet my needs either.

At the time of typing, I am putting a website together. It isn't all done yet, but I have completed the blog setup (and made my first post).

All of the posts on here can also be found on my new blog (along with the comments).

The new location for my blog is here.

Friday, 13 March 2009

HUU Elections 2009 - The delayed President

One of the more controversial aspects of the elections that recently took place at Hull University Union was the disqualification of one of the Presidential candidates - Jamie Scudamore. Due to that decision, made by Returning Officer Kat Docherty, Jamie appealed and that meant an Election Appeals Committee had to be arranged. This delayed the result by a week.

Final round results
As the decision to disqualify Jamie Scudamore was reversed by the Election Appeals Committee, he has been elected President and all of the results from the polling period stand. R.O.N was out of the running first. In the next round Ben Hall and Rory Stobo were out of the running, which meant there was three candidates in the final round:

Jamie Scudamore1152
Amy Hopkinson655
Andrew Barrett471
Q&A with Alex Hamilton
Alex Hamilton
After the result of this particular election was announced, I had several questions. A number of rumours were being circulated and I wanted to make sure I had the truth before blogging anything. Yesterday I sent an email to Alex Hamilton (the UST and Deputy Returning Officer), containing the questions that I had and I got the following responses this morning:

Are the minutes of the EAC going to be published on hullstudent?
I'll have to check with Paul what the availability of closed committee minutes is. The reasons to go into closed session were the reports of what has happened previously in EACs, regarding intimidation of the EAC by the behaviour and amount of people present (Amy had arrived with about 15 very vocal supporters); also some of the evidence given would be prejudicial against one of the complainants if the EAC decided to re-run the election so it was deemed unsuitable to be heard publically.

Is it true that there was a 12-0 vote in favour of Jamie Scudamore winning, despite him breaking rules?
The vote was 10-0 as only ten could make the meeting (quoracy is seven). They decided that the infringements during the election that were dealt with to the RO’s satisfaction were not grounds to exclude him and that the only unresolved issue, the one for which the RO excluded the candidate was insubstantial, especially given the circumstances in which it was initiated.

Was the EAC called because he was canvassing (e.g. knocking on doors) in areas where he wasn't supposed to?
It was not. There has been a rumour of a local council byelaw prohibiting this, but no proof has been offered. I have myself researched this and the only thing I could find was a byelaw preventing the employment of children for door knocking/ canvassing without an adult present; which would of course imply that adults can do so.

There have been accusations of rigging (I'm not going to name anyone). Can I get your confirmation that it was completely random selection that decided who was part of the EAC?
I can confirm the students were entirely random, as the Chair of Council (Paddy) and James Brooks can attest to.

The process I used to select the students was to generate 200 random positive integers, these numbers then corresponded to a cell on an excel spreadsheet of all students, which has them listed 1-17000ish. These names were then checked against the list of candidates, proposers and seconders. I then sent an email to these students explaining the situation (an appeal had been made which required adjudication). I also checked the respondents’ facebooks for any campaign ties, and then found a time that at least 7 could make to hold the meeting. I also did not know any of the EAC.

I must also point out that I refused to release the names of the EAC prior to the meeting, despite threats of a motion of no-confidence against myself (which was subsequently made) from Amy’s campaign team, notably Sam Greenwood.

What are your thoughts on the decision of the EAC to elect Jamie?
I am of course impartial to any proceedings during the election period. I am satisfied though that the EAC carried out their duty satisfactorily and professionally.

Alex finished off the email by stating:
"There have been a great deal of rumours surrounding the President election (as there are almost every year), this year I feel the difference is that two actively political campaigns have not succeeded against what is seen as an outsider to HUU politics, and due to the last minute resignation of the previous RO, a Sabbatical needing to take on the deputy duties, as I am available on campus during the period – as a result the parties involved moved their attentions from campaigning for a victory to undermining the processes involved.

The recently elected Officers have a massive democratic mandate as a result of our highest ever turnout, and as such it is a shame that some groups within our democratic structures are intent on ignoring and undermining this."
First of all I have to thank Alex for taking the time to answer the questions. It would have been easy to ignore them and keep speculation circulating around the union.

Despite the detail of these responses, I still have some concerns. Kat Docherty was only present on the results night and there is no evidence to suggest she was present at the EAC to justify her decision. His refusal to release the names of the EAC is also worrying.

There is only his word which states the membership wasn't rigged in any way. This doesn't help to make the union transparent and also means there is nothing to prove that what he says about committee selection is correct. In the past, I have seen EAC membership announced and it's even more important given that there's a no-confidence motion against him.

In point 3, he stated that he could not find evidence to prove that the accusation about canvassing was against the rules. After searching election laws, Standing Order 2003 (governing elections) and the HUU Bye-laws I could not find anything either. If there is proof - then please leave a comment on this blog post.

If there's no proof of that though, what was the reason for the initial disqualification? This needs to be stated to make sure the union remains transparent.

Alex also mentioned the subject of the previous RO (Paul Tatton), resigning from that position. Even though Alex felt an impartial replacement needed to be found, this does not mean that he should necessarily be the automatic choice as a deputy. As I have stated in a previous blog post, theoretically he could influence the result and (as he rightly states), executive officers are meant to be impartial.

Public opinion
I have asked other people what they feel about the decision to elect a candidate who was initially disqualified. One person said:
"I think its right
There is no way you can say that the number of votes cast has been dramatically affected by what happened.
His vote count was far too high for that."
I replied by stating that "while it's true that there is no proof that the two things are linked, is it right that a person who was initially disqualified should be elected?". The person said:
"i still feel it was in the best interests of the students and the union itself"
It is an interesting point. Not being able to found out who can rightly call themselves President as soon as possible can have a huge impact. It affects training schedules, teamwork and could potentially mean voters lose faith in the union's ability to manage itself properly.

However, it is important that those who are elected have the right to hold that position and all necessary steps need to be taken to ensure that.

Summary and Conclusion
I would say that the biggest problem is communication. As I have mentioned, there is evidence of a lack of transparency and people need this to know that their votes have meaning. There needs to be appropriate publicity for all elections and all info that is published needs to be 100% accurate.

The presidential election could have been handled better, but I applaud Alex for giving answers to important questions in an effort to reduce the number of concerns people have. If you have any issues with the election, it is always important to contact the RO or the deputy.

It will be interesting to hear what happens with the no-confidence motion. There seems to be a large amount of support for it, but will people give up as the election process is now completed?

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: Election, HUU, Politics, Student Unions, President

Friday, 6 March 2009

HUU Elections 2009 - the results (with a twist)

The last day of voting and the announcement of the results were both very eventful. Naturally, there was a lot of tension and when each result was announced, there was a huge amount of emotion shown. Amongst the chanting and the tears though, we now have most of the team that will be in charge of the union for the 09/10 academic year.

A note about the presidential election
The following quote is from a statement made by Kat Docherty, the returning officer for this year (the full statement can be found here):
"During the course of the elections, a number of complaints were received by the Returning Officer regarding a particular candidate for the position of President. Some of these complaints were upheld and the decision made to exclude the candidate from the elections."
The disqualified candidate (several reliable sources told me it was Jamie Scudamore), has appealed the decision and there will be an Election Appeals Committee meeting that decides who becomes President next year. As a result of this I will be posting the result of the Presidential election in an extra (fourth) entry about the elections.

The results
VP Welfare
Alice Marshall910

VP Community (final round results)
Ben Wilcox681
Katie Beth-Hardy350
Andrew Corless331

VP Education (final round results)
Chris Marks530
Mark Tyson398

VP Sports (final round results)
James 'Wayne' Kerr930
Nathan Webster921

Chair Scarborough
Darius Navickas249
James Nicholson221

Chair ISA
Line Kristensen543
Joe Kitanosono156

Chair Media Committee
William Langdale518

Chair Campaigns & Democracy
Basit Mohammed530
Kaveh Azarhoosh409

Other winners
There were several other positions up for grabs during the elections. One very intersting election was for the position of Chair RAG. In the final round, Ellen Hinsley won by just two votes. It's also interesting to note that after the first round she was only leading by three.

Some of the other elections only had one human candidate and the Re-open nominations option, so it was almost certain who would win that. For example, that happened in the case of Disabled Students Chair (won by Stephen Lee), the Male Chair of LGBT (won by Daniel Horner) and the Chair of the Mature Students Committee (won by Luke Howard-Pask).

Comments on the results
I find the result for the VP Education election very interesting. Chris Marks has managed to repeat what Richard Jackson did in last year's elections by winning despite having no experience of the area he's going to be in charge of. Hopefully, the students thought his policies were good enough. I also have to mention that Mark Tyson wasn't helped by his campaign team being absent most of the time. I have mentioned in a previous post that this was disgraceful. If you don't have a noticeable physical presence at election time, you're going to be disadvantaged.

The VP Sport election was incredibly tight (nine vote difference). I think that has to be one of the closest results for a full-time officer position in a number of years.

The picture above shows Nathan Webster (runner-up in the VP Sport election) doing some karaoke with some of the winners (I have to point out that the choice of song was incredibly clich├ęd), which shows in most cases, elections were cleanly fought and people were friends afterwards - which is nice to see. It's just things like the presidential election which casts a shadow over everything.

Voter turnout/apathy
This was something that really impressed me. The turnout was 3087 and that is a 58% increase on the previous. Congratulations have to go to the union for improving it by that much. The biggest change to the voting setup was using the university portal as a login method, so I assume the decision to use that helped improve the turnout.

Another important figue is what the turnout is as a percentage of the total student population. According to the university website, the number of student scurrently stands at 19,818. Assuming that there were no people who opted out of union membership, that means 15.58% of students voted.

While that is still an impressive figure both compared to previous years and compared to other unions, it still means that the majority of students didn't vote. It means that next year's UEC still have work to do. However, it is always hard to get rid of student apathy. I can't see anything like 90% turnouts anytime soon.

Summary and Conclusion
This election has been 'mixed', to say the least. While most elections have been fought cleanly, things like the presidential election have caused considerable controversy and tarnished the outcome. The turnout was great. Also, many candidates performed well, despite not having that many posters or a physical presence.

Another thing to note is R.O.N. Although in some cases that option was removed in the first round, a surprising number of people voted for it. That has both positives and negatives. It means that more people are willing to engage with the political process, but it also means that they are prepared to delay things. Having said that, if it means the best person gets chosen for the job - it's a good thing.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: HUU, Student Unions, Election, Politics