The Trinity MCR Presidential election, which was decided 30 votes to 29, is to be rerun, after the initial vote saw three votes controversially invalidated.
As a result of the decision, made at an Emergency General Meeting on Tuesday 9th week, the original winning candidate, Caitlin Gale, pulled out of the presidential race entirely. Graduate Trinitarians will therefore likely only have a choice between Jenni Zelenty, the original losing candidates, and RON in the new elections.
Three elected committee members have also resigned their posts in protest at the post-election controversy.
Two of the three invalidated votes, which all placed Zelenty as first preference, were declared spoilt because they declared both their second and third preferences for RON; the third stated Zelenty as their first, second and third preferences. All of these were interpreted by the Returning Officer as voting for a candidate in more than one preference position, in breach of the official voting procedure.
The invalidation was unpopular amongst a significant proportion of the MCR, on the grounds that a ‘reasonable man’ – the standard stated in the MCR’s Electoral Handbook – could interpret the invalidated ballots as expressing a clear preference for Zelenty.
A petition was circulated, which garnered enough signatures to force an Emergency General Meeting chaired by Sir Ivor Roberts, president of the college. At this meeting, after a two-hour discussion, three motions were passed, including one recommending the Returning Officer to run a revote. This motion was passed by fourteen votes to seven.
In an email to the MCR explaining her decision to stand down from the fresh set of elections, Gale wrote: “It has become apparent that there is a vocal group within the MCR who seem to think I should have nothing to do with any future MCR committee and are willing to do anything to achieve this goal.”
She added: “I believe that the divide that has formed within the MCR, and which recent events are making worse, is a dangerous thing. To let the current ugliness drag on any farther would not only be irresponsible, but also would deepen this divide and further damage the MCR.”
In addition to Gale, three other members of the newly elected committee announced their resignations in MCR-wide emails within 24 hours of one another.
Hannah Boston, elected as Secretary, wrote: “Recent developments have, I believe, undermined the ethos and cohesion of the MCR which I stood to serve.”
Laura Arthur, voted in as Treasurer, claimed: “Remaining in this position would endorse the controversies and injustices of the last few weeks which I believe have undermined the best aspects of our MCR, as well as compromising my own wellbeing and my academic work.”
Marc Szabo, Welfare Officer-elect and ESL Rep-elect, explained that the “subversive spirit in which the [complaints] have been brought forward” was the reason for his resignation from both posts.
Commenting on the resignations, Clive Eley, Junior Dean and one of the authors of the petition, said: “The resignations are, of course, very regrettable. It is my sincere hope that the vacancies will be filled and that next year’s committee will take a fresh and positive view going forward.”
Others were less charitable. One MCR member, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “One sniff of dissent or controversy and it’s all interpreted as personal attacks. Those resigning decided to simply throw in the towel – harming a number of others MCR members in the process.”