UMSU Elections: Explained

27 August 2018

So, it’s week seven and you have an assignment due on Friday. You’re rather tired and you just don’t want to go to that regrettable 9am tute you got into because you forgot about class registration. However, you have a five hour gap between those two classes so you decide to go to the Baillieu to get some study done.

As you head to the Baillieu, you are bombarded by a kaleidoscope of pink, red, orange and black shirts telling you to vote for them and how they’ll change your uni experience.

Flustered, you walk away from the Baillieu and feel rather peckish. Union House hasn’t filled up with people yet and you want to grab something eat there. However, as you head toward Union House, you see yet another swarm of pink, red, orange and black shirts telling you, well you guessed it, to vote.

Seeing as you have nowhere to go, you watch as each shirt shoves each other telling you why they will, once again, change your uni experience. The tussle then descends into a melee and you get caught up in the screams, rap battles and backflips and you end up becoming the one screaming. At this moment, you just want to go home and maybe skip uni all together. For most people, you could just say “no thank you” or “I’ve already voted” and that’s the end. But here’s the thing: elections actually matter.

Your vote is rather influential in how the Union represents you in the following year.

So, listen up, we’re in for a magic tram ride of a trip on what elections are and how to vote.

First of all, what is UMSU and why should I care about them?
UMSU is the University of Melbourne Student Union, which represents all UniMelb students. It is responsible for things like student clubs and activities, as well as student services and advocacy. So think of the ‘free’ student BBQs, carnivals or weird parties that happen throughout the year. They happen because UMSU is there. They’re here for you.

Okay but, why should I vote if I don’t need to?
Voting lies at the heart of democracy…

Okay let’s not get dramatic. Voting is important and vote early, vote often like they do in Chicago.

In all seriousness, don’t vote often but vote early if you need to.

Voting in student elections is important because you have a say in deciding who represents you, how often you can get drunk on campus and whether or not you can get more free food or find the help you need. If you’ve got issues about university admin, enrolment, grades and even your commute, UMSU on paper is supposed to represent your concerns about your university life.

Because not enough people voted, the previous entity, Melbourne University Student Union, became embroiled in corruption and as a result was dissolved by the Supreme Court.

Bottom line—vote. Otherwise you won’t get a say on what matters to you during your years at uni.

Who runs this circus?
The president is the top dog of the union—they attend lots of meetings with the University about fun things like the student precinct and act as its spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the general secretary runs students’ council and all things governance. Think of them as Jan from that ad—lots of paperwork.

Education advocates for students in matters such as misconduct hearings and campaigns around education issues such as Cadmus and cuts to higher education. Activities is the Union’s fun aunt, hosting parties, trivias and Tuesday Bands, Barbeques and Bevs and sometimes the weird event like free tacos.

The environment department campaigns against issues such as fossil fuel investment and military groups on campus and you can often see them outside the Chancellery Building dancing and trying to keep warm.

Welfare, when it’s not a breeding ground for creepy love letters, can be seen running breakfasts in North Court or The Ida every morning. They also advocate for things like better funding for Counselling and Psychological Services as well as running a food bank for students who need items in an emergency.

Media (that’s us!) prints this magazine and runs Radio Fodder. Come to our launches and you’ll get a spiffy magazine and some refreshments and sick tunes.

Clubs and societies is the governance overlord of over 200 clubs and societies on campus. Whether it is Cheese Club or Robogals, they make sure that clubs are being active and hosting events for students as well as choosing new clubs that may fill a gap in the ever-increasing niches students have.

Creative arts cultivate and assist student theatre, performance and art. You can find them in the Arts Lab making something usually.

The autonomous departments are disabilities, Indigenous, People of Colour, queer and women’s, which advocate and run collectives for students who identify accordingly. VCA and Burnley provide services and advocacy for the students on their campuses.

If there’s a circus, who are the people wanting to be the ringleader/clown?
The two major factions in the election are More! and Stand Up!, which generally contest the majority of OB positions. This year, they’ve made a deal to secure some positions. In exchange for four of More’s NUS delegates, Stand Up! is not contesting disabilities, People of Colour or queer.

The smaller factions are Melbourne Socialists (Socialist Alternative), Independent Media and The Biggest Blackest ticket. Choice and the Liberals (both run by the Liberal Club) also nominated for positions, although didn’t fill our their ticket forms correctly, meaning that their candidates are now independents. There are also a variety of other smaller tickets, which come and go each year.

We weren’t kidding when we said there will be a flurry of pink, red, orange and black shirts. Think of this as dodgeball and a food fight happening at the same time.

In the 2017–18 UMSU elections, Stand Up! won every OB position they contested except for general secretary. This was a big swing from the previous year, when Stand Up! did not gain a single OB position due to More! taking over the union. Sources say this is perhaps one of the most competitive races in recent years so keep an eye out toward the end of election week.

You’ve watched the circus, know its people, now how do you actually vote in an UMSU election?
This is where things actually get messy and weird (like your 18th or 21st). We will try our best to explain to you how to vote as if you were a five-year-old. The only problem? Five-year-olds can’t or don’t vote, but it’s good to know.

1. Go to a Polling Booth
A polling booth is where you vote. Here, you get a piece of paper called a ballot where you put down who you want to vote for. Bring your student card with you, or you won’t be able to get a ballot. You can find polling booths at the following locations:

  • Baillieu Library
  • Union House
  • FBE Building
  • Stop 1
  • Murrup Barak (open Tuesday, Wednesday)
  • Southbank (open Tuesday-Thursday)
  • Burnley (open Wednesday, Thursday)

Most polling stations open around 10-11am and close around 5-6pm. You can find the finalised times in our Election Guide. If you can’t be at any of these booths to vote, you can submit a postal vote here.

2. How to Actually Vote
You’ll get multiple colourful sheets requiring you to vote on many things and many positions. The first few pages are regarding OB positions such as president or welfare followed by committee and council contests. The premise is the same with those, vote for who you desire but it’s better to preference all for committee/council seats. There are also several pages for restricted constituency positions such as People of Colour or queer, which you can only fill out if you identify as part of said consituency.

You have to preference THE NUMBER ONE for WHO YOU WANT TO WIN. YOU CAN THEN PREFERENCE YOUR SECOND MOST FAVOURITE AND SO ON, depending on how many candidates they are. However, the elections are using what is called, Optional Preferential Voting which means you can vote in the following ways: vote for one, vote for all or vote for some.

Here’s an example of the ways you can vote:

3. Run Away
After you’ve chosen who you want to win, you put the ballot inside a cardboard box. You are now a democratic citizen who is exercising their rights as a student. You can now run away from the Color Run and Circus and head back into another one, your classes. Yay!

When do I know who won and stop caring?
Don’t stop caring but generally you’ll find out late Friday of voting week about who has won president and maybe the other OB positions. Usually Farrago, aka us (we need to stop reminding you lot that we’re Farrago because it’s getting really meta), will have live tweets and rolling coverage on Facebook.

Stay tuned because this election is looking to be quite a ride and one of the most contested in years.

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