Today the Union holds on of its first polls in years, asking members to vote on the legalisation of slates, the introduction of RON on the ballot paper and authorisation of online campaigning.
The rules changes mean a lot. Rule 33, which covers electoral malpractice and is infamous in Union circles as the cause of much end-of-term tribulation, hasn’t been updated since the ‘90s. Twenty years ago it was nigh on impossible to imagine the future frustration of being repeatedly Facebook messaged and called, on top of the usual lodge, as ‘acquaintances’ let alone “close personal friends” asked you to haul down to St Michael St . to vote.
Furthermore the lack of a Re-Open Nominations option has led to a culture where a select few hacks grimily work out who is running for what officerships and the ordinary member is left with no real voting options. It is unsurprising considering these issues that turnouts are low and frustration with the Society is high, as a cliquey set continue to control the atmosphere and culture of the Union.
Introducing these rules changes means that voters have a choice: you can give a candidate a mandate with your vote or you can officially voice your annoyance. They also mean that the on going farce of ‘slates’ can be put to bed: we all know they exist, keeping them under the table and in the dark only leads to backstabbing and in fighting, to majorly mix my metaphors.
That isn’t to say the rules changes don’t have issues. Very arguably, there has not been enough discussion with members, despite calls for a debate in the House. Arguably, with three such big measures they should not all have been rolled up in one motion. Similarly, legalising slates without enforcing any kind of regulation is foolhardy and partially defeats the point of bringing them above board.
Despite these blatant issues, the changes are a step worth fighting for. The current secrecy of elections is arbitrary and damaging; these changes make the Union more transparent and give people an opportunity to actually have a say.
The step may be muddled, rushed and problematic, but it is in the right direction. If you are a member, it is worth going to vote so that your vote in the future means more.
Polls are open today from 12pm-7pm at the Oxford Union