Union backtracks over election mistake

Union backtracks over election mistake

13th March 2018 By Joseph Tulloch

The Oxford Union has decided to correct mistakes made in counting votes in its recent election, after indicating last week that it would not do so.

The correction means that Rai Saad Khan, previously thought to have lost the election, will replace Mo Iman on the society’s Secretary’s Committee.

The election took place on Friday the 2nd March, and results were announced on the Saturday. On Wednesday of the following week, the Union’s Returning Officer, Stanislas Lalanne, discovered a fault with the spreadsheet used to count votes.

There had been a mistake with the formula for vote change for Khan, who had in fact had a vote value of 86.298, higher than Iman’s 81.490.

Lalanne wrote that “As such, Iman should have been eliminated in the final round, finishing runner-up, while Khan should have taken his place on Secretary’s Committee.”

He referred to the incident as a “clear injustice” and accepted full responsibility, but said that it was not within his powers to reverse the result.

He cited Union Rule 33(b)(vii)(1), which states that: “The Returning Officer May order a recount if a Member brings to his attention within 48 hours of the Close of Poll an error in the results published on the Notice board”. Since the issue was not brought to his attention during this 48 hour period, he argued, “I do not believe that it is under my powers in the Rules to correct this error”.

On Saturday, however, he released an official ruling in which he stated that “I am able to correct the STV (single transferrable vote) error, and Rai Saad Khan has been elected onto Secretary’s Committee.”

His previous statement, in contrast, was “not a formal ruling”, he stressed.

The reason given by Lalanne for the change of position was that Rule 33, cited above, applies in cases where members are able to discover electoral errors on the Notice board, but in this instance he was the only individual who could have been expected to notice the fault with the spreadsheet.

In cases where the rules are unclear, he argued, the Returning Officer is justified “in seeking to resolve the matter in a way that [is] consistent with the democratic nature of the Society.”

Khan said: “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.

“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.”

This result is a further setback for Iman’s “Reform” election slate, which fared poorly in the elections, where its presidential candidate Molly Greenwood and all three of its candidates for senior officerships were defeated by rivals from the #Ignite campaign.