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Summary of election complaints and appeal process

On 29th February we took the precautionary step of delaying the election count and publication of results while a number of outstanding complaints and issues around some candidates’ campaigns were investigated. The integrity of our elections is of the utmost importance, and so the need to allow sufficient time for investigations, including appeals where necessary, was the driving force behind this decision. This process is now complete, and a summary is outlined below.

Complaint outcomes

A total of 31 complaints were submitted over the course of the elections. Of these, 12 had provided sufficient information to enable them to be formally investigated. The vast majority of these complaints related to general campaign conduct concerning voter privacy and correct use of mobile devices for voting.

Our findings were the following:

  • There were sufficient reports and eyewitness accounts of candidates and/or campaigners standing close to students and pointing at their mobile devices to be reasonably certain that this was taking place. However, from the evidence we have, it was not possible to determine whether candidates and campaigners were actually casting votes for students, or explaining the process, or something else entirely.
  • Many of the complaints we received were related to issues with the campaigning approach that some candidates chose to adopt, but that didn’t constitute a breach of the rules and regulations. Examples of this would include actions like campaigning towards students who are queueing for food, or not explaining anything about who they are or what they want to achieve when asking for votes.
  • There were three complaints that alleged phones actually being taken from students by campaigners in order to vote on their behalf. We were able to verify one of these complaints, and as no votes were actually cast, this was not deemed sufficient to apply a sanction. There were another two complaints of this nature that did not provide sufficient details of the alleged offence, however we were able to remove the votes that had been cast at the complainants’ request.
  • Voting statistics from our website suggest that the majority of votes cast across all the elections came as a result of either the email sent out by the SU each day, or the University push notification. This is based on timings of votes cast, and click-through tracking.

Campaign expenditure

Eight candidates were provisionally withdrawn from the elections by the Deputy Returning Officer, pending appeal, for failure to correctly account for their campaign expenditure.

All eight candidates appealed the decision of the Deputy Returning Officer, three of which were subsequently reinstated by the Deputy Returning Officer after being referred back with a recommendation from the Returning Officer.

The remaining five appeals were all upheld by the Returning Officer, and the decision to withdraw these candidates from the election was overturned.