By Jack Parker
Voting in the Students’ Union Officer and Trustee elections has ended, but Thursday’s planned public announcement of the election results has been cancelled.
The SU confirmed the cancellation on Facebook on Wednesday morning.
The brief statement reads: “We’re anticipating there may be ongoing election investigations that will need to be resolved before the result of the election can be declared.
“This means that the planned results night event on Thursday night has been cancelled, in case the result cannot be announced by that time.
“The results will be declared on our website as soon as possible following the completion of any outstanding investigations, so keep an eye out!”
Despite record numbers of votes cast on the first day of the voting window, turnout in the election was still only 19.2%. Although 5% higher than last year, this is still significantly lower than the 24.7% turnout three years ago.
Turnout was highest at St Chad’s College with 41%, with St Aidan’s College a close second on 39%. However, only 5% of Durham’s postgraduate students voted in the ballot.
Turnout in the election was only 19.2%
Investigations into the Officer elections had been announced earlier in the week by Gareth Hughes, the Deputy Returning Officer overseeing the election.
In a post on the SU website on Monday afternoon, Hughes wrote: “The Durham University Secretary has the power, on behalf of the University Council, to require a full, transparent review of these elections. Durham SU has asked her to exercise that power, and she has agreed.
“As such, Durham SU will voluntarily undertake an independent external review of the 2020 Officer and Trustee election, overseen by the University Secretary.
“Durham SU is committed to this process and will fully support the review.”
It is not clear how long the investigations will take and, therefore, when the election results will be published.
The delay in announcing the results comes at the end of a contentious and divisive election period, dominated by debate about voting to Re-Open Nominations (RON), rather than for any of the candidates, as a form of protest against the SU.
It is not clear how long the investigations will take
The ‘Vote RON in the DSU Elections’ Facebook campaign launched hours prior to the start of the voting window, and advocated voting to Re-Open Nominations as “a clear demonstration from our students that they disagree with the Students Union’s undemocratic behaviour.”
In a statement to Palatinate on Wednesday, those behind the Vote RON campaign said they found it “reassuring that investigations into potential election rule breaches are being carried out, but disappointing that these investigations are required in the first place.
“We find it deeply concerning that the results may be withheld indefinitely by the SU. […] We feel that SU transparency is vital.”
Student Helen Paton added: “Internally, they have worked to address the issues that they have faced in this election, however, they have made another PR disaster by not revealing the results when proposed.
“They need to endure a process of democratic reform, especially regarding campaign regulations, they should learn a thing or two about common rooms and I honestly feel empathy for all the candidates that had to run in such a mishandled election. Whatever the outcome, this is a wake up call and should be addressed accordingly.”
Image: Tim Packer from Wikimedia Commons