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.”