Union reverses ruling after election error

A counting error had denied Rai Saad Khan a spot on the Secretary’s Committee

Photo: Jay Cross/Flickr

The Oxford Union has reversed its decision not to amend last week’s incorrect election results, after it was revealed earlier this week that there had been a counting error.

The returning officer, Stanislas Lalanne, issued a revised statement last night stating that he had reconsidered his interpretation of the Union’s electoral rules, concluding that the results should be amended so as to reflect the correct vote counts.

Previously, the Union had informed a ‘defeated’ candidate for the Secretary’s Committee, Rai Saad Khan, that he would not be elected, despite winning more votes than his nearest rival.

Last week saw the first contested Union presidential election in five terms, with the race for Secretary’s Committee also being remarkably competitive.

Only the first eleven of over twenty candidates would make it onto the committee, and the results announced on Saturday morning showed that Rai Saad Khan had been pipped to the final spot by Mo Iman.

However, on Wednesday evening it was revealed that there was mistake with the vote count. In a document outlining what happened, Lalanne said he had “discovered an error in the Excel spreadsheet formula for vote change for Rai Saad Khan.

“I subsequently went through the spreadsheet to investigate whether there were any further errors, and also produced a corrected version,” he said. “I asked an ex-Returning Officer trained in using STV [Single Transferrable Voting] to independently confirm this.”

Rai Saad Khan’s election to the Secretary’s Committee has finally been confirmed.

He discovered that Khan should have had a vote value of 86.298 by the final round. The other candidate, meanwhile, only had a vote value of 81.490. As such, the other candidate should have been eliminated in the final round, with Khan taking his place on Secretary’s Committee.

Despite this error being clear and labelling it “an injustice”, Lalanne concluded he could not change the result. He referred to Union Rule 33(b)(vii)(1), which states that the Returning Officer may order a recount if an error is brought to his attention by a member within 48 hours of the close of the poll – meaning the deadline had long passed when the mistake was discovered.

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Lalanne, however, has now revised his judgement, concluding that Khan should be elected at the expense of Iman.

Key to his change of position was his belief that he was the only person in a position to spot the mistake, and thus no member could reasonably have alerted him to the error within the 48-hour period.

Khan told Cherwell: “I want to express how grateful I am for this opportunity. This ordeal has highlighted the importance of transparency, which I want to continue to fight for, and I hope my experience can encourage individuals to step forward and stake their claim, and not be intimidated by the Union’s reputation.

Khan (front, centre) was running as part of Stephen Horvath’s ‘Ignite’ slate

“The Union is one of the best things at offer in Oxford, and its novelty, significance, and success make it something which is worth fighting for.

“I look forward to working with Gui [Cavalcanti, president of the Union for Trinity Term] and the team in making next term a rewarding experience for all.”

In his ruling, Lalanne said: “As in the statement I made on Wednesday, as the Returning Officer of this Society I take full responsibility for the error having been made and apologise for it, in particular to Iman.

“For the public record, I would like to state that when I informed Iman of the error and of my initial decision on Wednesday, I also informed him that there is no need to resign under the Rules. Iman has acted in a manner consistent with the original advice I gave him.”

Iman declined to comment, citing his concern for the welfare of those involved.