MORE! Politics4 October 2016
From 5-9 September the polls were open, signifying that the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) General Elections for 2016 were taking place. During this week any student currently studying was eligible to run for a position in office and any student currently studying was allowed to vote. The elections are held annually to fill the UMSU Office Bearer positions and multi-member committees such as Students’ Council. All election proceedings are governed by the UMSU Constitution and UMSU Electoral Regulations.
Throughout election week 3,540 students voted across polling booths on Parkville, Southbank and Burnley campuses. This represents only 5.5 percent of students currently enrolled and eligible to vote. It is however a big improvement on last year’s turnout, where only 2,883 students voted.
Students had the option of running for a role as an Office Bearer or committee member independently or under an official ticket. This year the two major tickets running were ‘More!’ and ‘Stand Up!’.
Overall, More! dominated the election, obtaining all of the Office Bearer positions that they were contesting and claiming 12 of the 19 Office Bearer positions available, including President and General Secretary. Stand Up!, which has historically held a majority of UMSU Office Bearer positions, was driven out to the extent that it claimed none.
Click through our visualisation of the election results below.
The Students’ Council is comprised of 15 general positions and 6 representatives of special constituencies. Eight of the spots for general representatives were secured by More!, four by Stand Up!, one by Left Focus, one by Independent Media and one by Activate. In regards to the autonomous representatives, More! claimed all positions except for Indigenous Representative which was secured by The Biggest Blackest Ticket.
More!’s resounding success can be attributed to a couple of factors. Firstly, More! had a larger number of student campaigners than Stand Up!. This resulted in them having an extensive reach across the University’s campuses. Secondly, in direct correlation with having more campaigners, More! was able to amass a larger voting base than Stand Up!, resulting in more students voting for More! as election week progressed.
One interesting consequence of this Student Union composition is that all actions undertaken will be largely attributed to More! given their strong presence. This means that all feedback and blame procured over the next year will undoubtedly be shouldered by the More! ticket. Time will tell how the Office Bearers will fare in their positions in 2017.
The position of President was won by Yan Zhuang (More!) and General Secretary was won by Yasmine Luu (More!). The presidency was closely contested with 1,253 first preference votes going towards Zhuang and 873 going towards Adriana Mells (Stand Up!). The result was called in Zhuang’s favour late at night on Friday 9 September.
“The main goal is to open up the student union to make it more inclusive, with more secondary postitions and volunteer opportunities available for students,” said Zhuang, when asked about her plans as President for next year, “making sure that all students feel like they can get involved if they want to.”
Over the course of the election period, conflict arose that required the Returning Officer to hand down two rulings. Rulings are required when a complainant believes a respondent has broken the rules as outlined by the UMSU Electoral Regulations.
The first ruling was brought about after a claim was made that More! candidates were using an event where pizza was given out for free to campaign before election week. Inducements are prohibited under the electoral regulations as they may unfairly swing a voter in a camp’s favour. Offering free pizza was seen as a violation of this rule. In response to these allegations, the Returning Officer sanctioned a two-hour campaigning ban on members of the More! camp at the start of election week.
The second ruling surrounded controversy regarding the naming of particular tickets. When two tickets share a name that is believed to be too similar to each other, the ticket with prior claim is allowed to hold on to their original name. A complainant under the ticket Smore!, which was registered first, argued that the More! ticket was too similar in name. The Returning Officer quashed this claim, suggesting that the educated electorate would be able to see the difference in the two cases.
Despite the results of this year’s elections, it is important to note that if you think there is an aspect of university life the Student Union can improve upon, please feel free to pay the Office Bearers a visit on level one of Union House.