“Serious irregularities” have been discovered in the voting process for the NUS affiliation referendum held between Monday and Wednesday. The official result of the referendum was announced at the King Arms pub at 7.30 on Wednesday with a 1780 to 1652 vote to disaffiliate from the NUS for the academic year 2014-2015 announced. A formal complaint about the referendum has been put forward by the leader of ‘Believe in Oxford’, Jack Matthews, and will be heard by a Junior Tribunal next week.
In a post on the ‘Believe in Oxford’ website, Matthews wrote that his suspicions had first been aroused by “the larger than expected turnout, both overall, and for ‘NO’.” Matthews also wrote that “a victory built upon conspiracy and corruption would be hollow, hypocritical, and wrong”, and so as a consequence he would be looking to see the result overturned.
Irregularities with the voting process include large clusters of ‘No’ votes that appear to have been cast at the same time, as well as from the same location. Matthews wrote a letter to the OUSU Returning Officer passing on these concerns, in response to which the Junior Tribunal has been called.
Cherwell was the first to break the news of the challenge to the referendum result, tweeting:
Cherwell understands that the result of the NUS referendum is to be challenged #nusreferendum
— Cherwell (@Cherwell_Online) May 24, 2014
In a joint statement the leaders of the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns Tom Rutland and Jack Matthews commented,“We are both concerned that the result of the referendum did not accurately reflect the views of students. We await the decision of the Junior Tribunal, and will be working together over the coming weeks to ensure that the democratic principles of OUSU are upheld.”
OUSU Returning Officer Alex Walker told Cherwell, “The evidence that I have seen is clearly of a very serious nature and I am sure that the Junior Tribunal will make an appropriate decision. If the Junior Tribunal comes to the decision that the referendum should be voided, then I believe that OUSU Council should either pass a motion to affiliate to the NUS or organise another referendum”.
Following the challenge, OUSU President and ‘Yes’ campaign leader Tom Rutland has since tweeted that Oxford actually voted to reaffiliate to the NUS. Rutland later tweeted that the real result of the referendum is thought to approximately be a 70% vote in favour of reaffiliation and a 30% vote against, on a 11% turnout.
Disappointed by the ballot manipulation but v happy with real result: Oxford voted overwhelmingly to reaffiliate to @nusuk
— Tom Rutland (@tomrutland) May 24, 2014