Presidential result called into doubt after 20% of votes declared invalid

The SU Election results could face being invalidated after concerns were raised by students regarding the number of spoilt ballots following the introduction of the new E-voting system. This comes days after Rich Croker was named York University Students’ Union President 2006/07.

It was announced during the awards ceremony on Friday night that 20% of the votes cast in the SU’s new E-voting scheme were spoilt. A spoilt ballot occurs when a vote is submitted without a choice of candidate being made. This occurred unintentionally in several cases during the SU Elections when students clicked a button labelled “vote now” before making their choice in a misunderstanding of the wording, which was changed to “submit” later in the voting period. Other cases involved confusion over how to select a candidate using the drag-and-drop system.

Since the vote was announced, discontent has been voiced by several students, including Nik Ljubicic of Goodricke college, who has submitted a complaint to SU Services Officer, Nat Thwaites-McGowan, questioning the legitimacy of the result, calling it an “absolute joke.” Ljubicic stated in his complaint that the “spoilt ballots would have clearly influenced the result,” and asked whether the result was still legitimate.

When asked his thoughts about the E-voting system, Ljubicic said that online voting has its “good points,” but that “there’s no point in having a system which people don’t understand.” He criticised the changing of the submission button, saying, “to me this shows that there was a problem with the online voting system,” and adding, “if there’s something wrong there should be a review.” Ljubicic said that he would be willing to take further action if the complaint was dismissed by the SU and that “this is just one avenue.”

Matt Burton, Chair of Goodricke JCR supported the complaint, saying, “I think an investigation should be made,” and stating that other students have voiced concerns over the legitimacy of election results. He said, “I think there are genuine grounds for concern that the system has failed, as it hasn’t represented the students, so in my eyes perhaps the election results should be void. Numerous Goodricke students have approached me and asked why there have been so many spoilt ballot papers.”

It was suggested that the relationship between the two Goodricke members and Colin Hindson may have influenced their decision to challenge the election results. Burton disagreed, saying that he was concerned that “seven other candidates may have been misrepresented in the results.” Further contention was raised when Burton stated that HYMS students had been prevented from voting due to being registered as off-campus residents and those with visual impairments were hampered by problems with the website ergonomics.

Rich Croker, who won the election by only 33 votes over rival Colin Hindson, faces the prospect of having to run again next term if the results of the election are invalidated. When asked about his thoughts on the election results he said that the online voting system was “not perfect” but he that would be “surprised” if anything came of the complaint, saying “I don’t think that it really benefits anyone.”

SU Services Officer Nat Thwaites-McGowan has also defended the E-voting system, saying there had been “enough testing with users”. Although admitting that this was done with a smaller number of voters, he emphasised that “it wasn’t that I knew there was a problem and ignored it.” He went on to downplay students’ concerns over the high number of spoilt ballot papers and said he does not consider it a “big problem” and “has not had a complaint,” although he concedes that an official complaint would call the results of the elections into question.

Several students who attempted to vote in the elections found that they had unintentionally spoilt their ballots. Martin Readle, who submitted a spoilt ballot called the system “useless and misleading,” adding that when he had attempted to contact the SU regarding the mistake he didn’t receive a reply. Lucy Abbey had a similar problem, saying that “voting online was meant to be simpler and easier but it was more complicated.” She added that she was “very disappinted” that “people like myself who wanted to vote couldn’t because of the system, so it made the elections undemocratic in my view.”

7 comments

  1. The election should be re-run. There is doubt over the constitution, doubt over these elections. Now doubt over the whole SU.

    These elections and the constitutional vote should be re-run to give a final answer once and for all.

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  2. The concern raised does appear to be directed from a majority of Goodricke members, but, what a generalisation!! Solidarity to ones College does not always preside ones opinion of the candidates. I too suffered a lack of understanding regarding the voting system due to the confused VOTE NOW submission system and, question whether it is possible to recall how many spoilt ballots would have swayed the small minority needed to alter the presidential role. 20% spolit ballots and 33 needed for a tie-have we elected the president of choice or the president by default?

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  3. 2 Apr ’06 at 2:36 pm

    David Sneddon

    From my understanding the article that nouse ran wasn’t actually correct. Having spoken to various people who are involved/know about the election system the facts were miscontrued/misunderstood. The number of people who failed to vote-I believe there were around 45 people who wanted to vote in services (the given sample category)- for thre result to have changed Colin would have had to recieved the first 33 votes and then over 50% of the remaining ones- so approximately 40 out of the 45 ‘lost’ votes. Whilst this would have been possible i really don’t believe it would be likely- everyones supporters are as likely to mess up as anyone elses. The reason (from what i understand) why there were so many spoilt ballots was that the new electronic system allowed voters to choose which categories they voted in-hence the reason the “less” important positions recieved less votes.

    I don’t know either of Rich or Colin but i believe the results should stand and people should be proud to have such a contested election from two seemingly good candidates. These people work hard for us and we should leave the winners to enjoy their success.

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  4. David, does your real name happen to be Nat Thwaites McGowan?

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  5. David,

    Why are you using the number of spoilt ballots in the Services election in your argument when the article is concerned with those in the Presidential election?

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  6. Not making a personal attack, but most of the candidates in the SU elections had no personality. Sure the likes of Croker can be seen singing after a Club D. However this isn’t enough, as with alot of recent student politicians, they’re very narrow minded and look for something to put on their CV.

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  7. A few things bothered me about the election campaigning in general. Out of nowhere a number of people who I had never heard of before suddenly rudely and arrogantly invade campus kitchens. Trust me some of the smug batards (deliberately mispelt) that entered my kitchen flaunting their crappy poster, deserve jailtime if smugness was a crime. So sure they put up the posters, but how do I get to speak to them? They put some ambitious, vague policies on their posters, trying to vainly emulate real politicians. However as crap as real politicians maybe, I can challenge them or talk to them by email, fax and phone. I didn’t see a single poster with a contact email address. What made me laugh was lines on the posters like “I was headgirl at school”, “I know how to manage people”, “I’m hardworking and well liked”. Oh dear another set of public school sloanes on a popularity drive. Oh dear oh dear… Jokers….

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