Union members will vote this Thursday on new election rules, including the introduction of slates, electronic campaigning and a Re-Open Nominations option. The vote is going ahead in face of protest from some members that its organisation was against the rules. 

The complaint argues that the Union has not given members enough time or notice to vote on the changes. A requisition to delay a poll on significant electoral rule changes was submitted by former Returning Officer Ronald Collinson. The request has already received over 80 signatures on the Union noticeboard. 

The requisition asks that a planned vote for Thursday of 5th week be delayed to Thursday of 6th week, under Union rule Rule 67(b)(iv) and (v), which lay out provisions for cases where a rule change is decided to be “of such importance that it should be brought to the special attention of Members”. 

According to Rule 67 if the requisition is successful the rule changes will be considered at the weekly Union debate in 6th Week, while notices informing of the upcoming vote will need to be given to every College and Hall, as well as at least two newspapers.

If delayed until 6th Week, the rules changes will not affect this term’s Union elections.

Ronald Collinson, who is also an ex-member of Standing Committee, told Cherwell, “The proposed changes to the electoral rules are probably the most significant proposals since 1998, when campaigning was re-banned by a poll of members. They are also very long (originally 18 pages), and cover extensive ground – not just the legalisation of most forms of personal campaigning, but also the legitimation of ‘slates’ and a new provision to reopen nominations.

“The text of these proposals was only made public last Monday (3rd Week), with the intention that they be presented to the membership on Thursday of 4th Week.

“It was clear to me – and the 79 other members who signed this petition on a rainy Saturday afternoon – that such historic changes required heightened scrutiny, debate, and opportunity for amendment on both technical and substantive points. It was for this reason that we chose to invoke Rule 67(b)(v). This provides greater opportunity for airing concerns, and will ensure that all changes are as well-drafted, effective, and representative of the Members’ will as possible.”

However the leadership of the Union claim that the issue will be resolved by a poll in 5th Week. Thomas G Reynolds, current Returning Officer, told Cherwell “It has been brought to the Union’s attention that rules made by a poll can only be changed by a poll. The current electoral rules were made by a poll and so the way to change the rules about elections must be via a poll. As such a poll will be held on the Thursday of 5th Week from 12-7pm at the Union in order to allow the members to have their say on these proposed electoral changes.”

Meanwhile the President of the Union Mayank Banerjee said “Whilst I fully expected the rules changes to be met by some opposition it is quite encouraging that people do not seem to have problems with the changes themselves, but rather they seem to be trying to delay them passing. However, the main reason previous attempts have failed is because they have been constantly delayed on technicalities and so I am glad that we will be able to hold a poll of the membership on Thursday, to settle the issue decisively.”

Under the proposed rule changes currently banned practices such as open campaigning and forming slates would be authorized, while the option of ‘Re-Open Nominations’ would be introduced for the ballot.

Collinson commented on the changes that “I believe that the changes should be used as an unique opportunity to crack down on – not to legitimate – the formation of the insidious electoral pacts known as ‘slates’. I am also unconvinced that the Union would be well-served by having campaigning regulations even looser than OUSU’s. More generally, I think that there are a number of drafting issues which need to be looked at in greater detail.”

Banerjee responded “On the issue of slates, far from being ‘insidious’, I feel that it is important that if a group of people have the same ideas for what they want to change about the Union, they should be allowed to campaign in a way that recognises their shared views. It gives the membership more information about who they are voting for and in my eyes that can only be a good thing.”

At the time of publication, President Banerjee confirmed that the vote would be going ahead despite complaints. If the 5th Week poll is found to have been in breach of the rules, members can ask for disciplinary action to be taken against those deemed responsible, which would be heard in a Senior Disciplinary Committee hearing later this term.