A Junior Tribunal convened on Monday afternoon has found the result of the NUS referendum conducted last week to be void, following the revelation over the weekend of evidence of grave electoral malpractice.
The announcement follows the resignation last night of OUSU’s returning Officer Alex Walker and a complaint issued by Jack J Matthews, leader of the ‘No’ campaign, highlighting the misuse of the Unique Voter Codes (UVCs) issued for the online voting system mi-vote.com.
Cherwell understands that thousands of “spare” voter codes were issued for the election process, and whilst the Returning Officer only issued 20 of these for legitimate purposes, over 1,100 are thought to have been used to vote in the referendum. The codes are thought to have been used in close clusters and from a single locaton.
The Junior Tribunal concluded, “we understand from Ms Falck [acting returning officer] that about 20 replacement codes were issued during the course of the election, the number of spare codes used to vote far exceeds this. This means that votes were cast using a significant number of codes which were never distributed to voters. On this basis alone the referendum result cannot stand”.
Whilst the result of the referendum has been anulled, the Junior Tribunal found that “we are unable ro recommend any changes to OUSU’s practises or governance”.
The Tribunal was chaired by former OUSU committee members Madeline Stanley, Lewis Iwu, Rich Hardiman and was attended by the current Chair of Council Nick Cooper.
It is understood that a decision on whether to reconvene a referendum will take place at OUSU Council on Wednesday.
‘No’ campaign leader Jack J Matthews told Cherwell, “I welcome the result of the Junior Tribunal – it is absolutely right that the entire Referendum has been voided. We must now wait for a response from other investigations which will seek to discover who perpetrated this crime.”
Matthews continued, “In the meantime, I would urge people to ask the questions that need to be asked for the future of OUSU, and not the ones that satisfy curiosity. I particularly look to those on OUSU Council, to find the courage to query and challenge our current practices, and also to set the tone for how this situation will be remedied. It is not for old codgers like me to decide whether we should have another referendum – it is for Council”.
OUSU President-elect Louis Trup remarked, “I am genuinely shocked to hear of the electoral malpractice that has led to the results of the NUS referendum being declared void. It’s obviously a terrible thing to happen, but I just can’t really believe anybody cared enough to go to the trouble of sending off so many votes.”
Current OUSU President and ‘Yes’ campaign leader Tom Rutland has since tweeted his intention to bring forward a motion for OUSU to re-affiliate with the NUS.
I will bring a motion to 7th Week Council to reaffiliate to @nusuk, given that w/out 1000+ false ‘NO’ ballots, result wld hv been 70-30 YES
— Tom Rutland (@tomrutland) May 26, 2014
However, commenting on the ‘Yes’ campaign’s claim to victory, Jack J Matthews remarked, “While recognising that students did indeed vote to remain affiliated to NUS, it is hard to see how anyone can claim victory when democracy has been so brazenly violated”.
Speaking with regards to the 7th Week motion Louis Trup said, “I hope that motion passes, as the real results of the referendum would have been to re-affiliate. However, by voiding the referendum, it is as though it didn’t happen, so I will push to have an in/out referendum next academic year. Yay.”
Trup continued, “Although the Junior Tribunal could not offer any advice on ways to prevent a similar kerfuffle again, over the summer, the new sabbatical team will look into ways to improve OUSU’s systems.
“In the meantime, once I take up my position at the helm of the OUSU ship, I will push for the changes in the NUS which were highlighted over the campaigning period. There has been an indication that around 30% of Oxford students are not happy with the NUS, and that is 30% too many.”
Student campaigner Nathan Akehurst told Cherwell, “All those interested in democracy should condemn ballot-stuffing and admire the diligence and principle of Jack Matthews in his investigation. It seems apparent that Oxford did decisively choose to reaffiliate. However, the conversation about OUSU, NUS, democracy and representation should not stop here”.
Likewise, Louis Trup observed, “In all of this, Jack Matthews has shown himself to be a truly honourable person. I think the students of Oxford owe a lot to his honesty and top-notch conduct.”