OUSU Council has passed a vote of no confidence in former Returning Officer Alex Walker. The motion passed with 38 votes for, two votes against, and 15 abstentions.
Walker was OUSU’s Returning Officer in Trinity Term 2014, and as a result was in office during the referendum held on NUS membership, later found to have been rigged.
The motion, proposed by Jack Matthews and seconded by Will Obeney, noted the rigging of the referendum and the subsequent lack of clarity as to the progress of the proctors’ investigation into it, as well as noting that Walker “gave a direction that only the Returning Officer would be able to attend the count, contrary to normal practice”.
It went on to note, “During the referendum, Alex Walker removed the Democratic Support Officer’s access to the online ballot system,” and, “Alex Walker generated approximately 1,400 more voter codes than there are registered students in the University. Common practice is to generate around 200 [more].”
Following a protest from the leader of the ‘No’ campaign, the decision on attendance of the count was overturned, and the Democratic Support Officer also had their access to the system restored.
The motion also noted “that these voter codes were used to systematically rig the Referendum result, with these fraudulent votes representing over 30 per cent of the total votes cast.”
The motion called for “those responsible” to be held to account, and expressed disappointment that the proctors’ investigation was not progressing at a sufficient pace.
The motion further claimed, “As a minimum, Alex Walker’s actions and decisions as Returning Officer allowed for the defrauding of the electorate” and “that Alex Walker’s behaviour was improper, anti-democratic, and unscrupulous – betraying the responsibility he had been given to serve Oxford students as their Returning Officer”.
Matthews commented, “Council has now debated this matter; with the facts being presented, and the discussion properly mediated. I wholeheartedly stand by my decision to bring this motion to Council – the place which not only has the right, but the responsibility to make these resolutions so fundamental to the preservation of our democratic system.
“It is right that the motion passed, and that we have not allowed this dark episode in our history go past without holding to account those who allowed it to happen. Our democracy is at the core of everything OUSU does and must be defended always.”
Walker resigned in late May 2014, and has since resigned his membership of OUSU.
When asked for comment, Walker reiterated the comments he made to Cherwell in February, when he said, “I don’t quite know why Jack is so intent on pursuing this nasty little vendetta, and I don’t particularly care. Their motion is factually incorrect, omits vital information, is totally misleading, and most of all, just plain silly.
“I’m not a particular fan of the nauseating Jack Matthews Show, and since my resignation from OUSU I have been better off for its absence. I will now, like every other student at this university, continue to ignore student politicians like Jack and get on with my life.”