The Student Association General Elections are upon us once again and it is a time of determined campaigning, speeches and competition.
The organisation running the elections are the Election Committee who have been working on settling the details of the election for months now. IGNITE interviewed Student Council Chair; Dinesh Jayabalan, Vice Chair, Miflal Fayaz and Saajit Irfahn to get a better picture of their roles in the SA General Elections and the new innovations in the 2018 elections.
How long has the Elections Committee been organising the SA elections?
The EC Members were elected in the second Student Council Meeting that was held last semester and after they were chosen they have been working since December. The planning started in last semester itself.
What are some of the main things the EC do, or need to do in order to prep for the elections?
One of the main things the EC does is promote the SA General Elections. They ensure everything happens as planned and fairness is portrayed throughout the election period. They also assist during the nominations period and during hustings. If there is a dispute during the election period, the EC deliberates in taking the ‘right’ decision.
We also get the information out to the general student body so we prepare marketing materials such as buntings, banners and images from social media.
Another one of the major things we did was we decided on the elections timeline with the SA office to make sure no events clashed.
What is your role: before (ex. candidate nominations), during (ex. Hustings) and after the elections (if any)?
Dinesh: As the council chair, I basically chair the student council and their decisions. When it comes to the Hustings, I advise the Vice Chair if he needs any assistance in conducting the elections. I also head the special committee that may be formed in case there is an appeal sent by any candidates who don’t agree with the decision of the EC. I basically just oversee the election process and ensure everything happens as outlined in the Constitution.
Miflal: During the nomination period the main task is to get info out to people (ex. what positions are available, roles of each position etc.). During hustings, as the vice chair, I oversee the hustings. All the marketing material and the candidate pack and nomination pack were made by my team. The hustings will be chaired by either me or Saajit except for the presidential election which will be chaired by Dinesh.
After the elections, we are the first people to see the results. I will be in charge of announcing the results and also in charge of announcing them to the student body.
Something that hasn’t been done before that I plan to do, will be to train the next vice chair with any unusual incidents and to prepare for the upcoming year. We will also share what went well and how to improve.
This year’s SA election sees the implementation of a new voting system, IRV, instant run off voting.
How will it work differently from the previous system?
Dinesh: *Laughs* The rationale behind implementing this voting system is to encourage more members to sign up and have a more transparent/ efficient voting process. The previous voting methods usually allows voters to only vote for one person, different from this IRV System. However, I don’t think this system is going to be making much difference because IRV only makes a significant change when there are at least three candidates who are running for a position. Which isn’t the case for most of the positions this elections.
Miflal: The major difference is for the voters instead of choosing one candidate we rank the candidates according to the preference of the voters. It allows them to vote multiple times and the major advantages of IRV includes that all of the candidates who win from IRV get at least 50 percent of the majority of the opposition.
Saajit: Usually when candidates run they have the support of those in the same social circle but with IRV, it allows them to distribute their vote rather than stick to one person. More fairness to the election.
Why did the EC feel a change was needed?
Miflal: I came across it last year and it is being implemented in the UK campus as well as other universities around the world. After learning about IRV and how it has a better representation of student’s opinions, we felt the necessity to implement IRV. If you consider the previous years, the results could have been different had we implemented IRV. One of the biggest challenges with implementing IRV is calculating the results. This year with a lot of research from our EC members we have managed to find a way to calculate the results by exporting the data from Qualtrics.
In order to make sure the results are verified we have 2 systems the first one is the general result and the second one verifies it. So instead of having one method we have a backup plan.
What is the EC doing to encourage high voter participation?
For starters we have put up a lot of posters. One of them is quite funny as well as informative. We also put up buntings so if you come to campus by car from the guard house to the SA building there’ll be buntings.
March is a period where all the usual notice boards are filled so what we did was we put up buntings and we put one in the cafeteria and in SA near 7Elevenas that is where most students pass by, just to let more people know about the elections. But I think students are more aware this year and hopefully we’ll have a better turnout. We will be giving brownies to those who come to the voting booth.
There is currently no candidate running for the position of Education Officer. How will the EC ensure this position gets filled? Will nominations for this post be reopened?
It is not the job of the EC to ensure this position gets filled. The by elections will be held at the beginning of the next semester by the incoming Vice Chair after the EC for next academic year is formed and so it will be reopened for nominations in September as per the constitution.
Something that not a lot of students are aware of is the RON (Reopen Nominations) option on the voting forms. Since a lot of the posts have single candidates running for them, this might be an option that more people would like to take advantage of. What exactly is the Reopen Nominations option and what occurs if that is the option that gets the majority vote?
Dinesh: RON can be assumed to be another candidate who is running for the elected position. If RON wins, then the by elections will be held at the beginning of the next semester by the incoming Vice Chair after the EC for next academic year is formed. However, it is important to note that if RON wins, that SA Exec position will be vacant until the by elections are done next semester. So, the incoming officer may not be trained as the other officers who will be trained before this semester ends.
Miflal: So this year for the post of education officer RON will win by default because there’s no one running against them. If they get more than 50 percent of the votes then nominations will be reopened in September which is what will happen to the Education Officer’s post.
Saajit: Every post faces the threat of RON. In the event RON wins, the next vice chair has to conduct elections early next semester to fill these positions. If the students don’t believe that any of the people running are not capable of being the next SA President, for example, and representing the student body and feel like someone else should be running they will vote for RON instead of either of those candidates. However, by not voting they are allowing the people who are running to win. So it’s important for all of the students to vote even if they don’t like the candidates who are running.
Misdemeanours & Penalisations
What are you looking out for in terms of mishaps or issues during election season and how will you address them if they occur?
Dinesh: To be honest I really hope there won’t be any major issues this year. If such exist, then the EC will ensure that the issue is handled in the right and fair manner. In addition to that, if a nominee feels that the EC is being unfair, they are informed to write an appeal to the Student Council Chairperson immediately for it to be addressed.
Miflal: Normally we have a lot of issues during the elections but we hope that there are no issues this time because when this happens we lose a lot of our time in addition to studies as we need to get proof and sometimes deal with the Security Office where we need to get CCTV footage so we really hope that nothing happens. We keep the candidates informed of all the rules and regulations and we hope they follow them and if any such thing arises we will bring it to the whole EC, all 10 members, and vote on it and decide whether to penalise the person.
Saajit: Now we also have the appeal mechanism. If someone feels the EC is unfair, they can appeal, where the Student Council Chairperson will be chairing a secret committee and come to a decision.
Are there any mistakes from the previous year’s elections the EC are actively trying to avoid and what is being done to make sure they don’t happen again?
Dinesh: I wouldn’t call it a mistake because there were a lot of unexpected issues that arose last year. The constitution and the guidelines for the elections are mostly vague. Vague in the sense that it can be easily misinterpreted by those who are running and even use them to their advantage. This was an issue that we saw last year in which we have tried to overcome this year by ensuring all issues are addressed accordingly and steps taken to solve them are also effective and unbiased.
Miflal: Last year there were a few miscommunications where the candidates misinterpreted what we told them so this year we are ensuring such things don’t happen and we are sending all rules and regulations in written form via email.
Saajit: As a candidate in last year’s elections the EC did a very good job and were very clear.
Goals and Messages
What goals do the EC hope to see accomplished in the 2018 SA Elections?
A better voter turnout (30-40 percent) and we hope to see the IRV system to end and see it through without any issues since it’s the first time it’s being implemented.
Any final messages you want to give the student population with regards to the 2018 SA Elections?
Dinesh: Just three things.
- Do VOTE! Make your voice count. Every vote does make a difference.
- ATTEND Hustings! Ask questions. Your next board of SA Executives will be from this pool of candidates. So know what they are up to and question their manifesto if necessary.
- If you would like to raise a concern in regards to how this elections is taking place (eg: If a candidate is harassing you or etc), please write to the Chair and the Vice Chairperson immediately so the issue can be looked into. Silence will just promote negligence. And that does not solve the dilemma!
Miflal: Do vote because you are making your voice count by voting and as our slogan says ‘Your voice, Your vote’. Also, it is very important to attend the hustings and read the manifestos of all the candidates so you get a better understanding.
Saajit: If you’re a student make sure you exercise your right to vote and when you’re voting don’t vote blindly. Make a wise decision when voting. If there are any issues they can raise all their issues to the Vice Chair and address these issues and these will remain completely anonymous
Written and interviewed by Aneeqah Macan Makar
Featured image from mylancastersc.org