The result of this week’s NUS referendum has been plunged into doubt after “concerns of serious irregularities” were raised, The Oxford Student can exclusively reveal.
Evidence filed in a complaint by Jack Matthews, the leader of the “No” campaign, suggests that over 1,000 spare unique voter codes (those not originally assigned to students) were used to vote no “in large clusters…at a similar time”. According to the complaint, the votes all came from logons at the same IP address.
Matthews’ complaint also claims that a “significantly larger number” of UVCs than normal were issued. The student electorate is around 21,500, but for this vote 23,000 codes were issued.
The “result” announced on Wednesday suggested that the “Yes” campaign received 1652 votes, while “No” received 1780. It will now be reviewed by OUSU’s Junior Tribunal.
“There is considerable prima facie evidence that the referendum process has been tampered with,” Matthews’ complaint read.
“In view of the seriousness and scale of the potential problem, I therefore request that the matter be immediately referred to the Junior Tribunal for further investigation and consideration,” it added.
Under OUSU rules, the Junior Tribunal must make its decision within 96 hours of the complaint being filed.
In a joint statement, Matthews and Tom Rutland – who led the “Yes” campaign – said they would be “working together” over the coming days.
“We are both concerned that the result of the referendum did not accurately reflect the views of students. We await the decision of the Junior Tribunal, and will be working together over the coming weeks to ensure that the democratic principles of OUSU are upheld,” they said.
Returning Officer Alexander Walker, a second-year student at Wadham, responded by acknowledging that “the complaint is clearly of a serious nature”.
“Regarding the points made in the complaint, I can only answer to point one in that I did not know the size of the electorate when I made the UVCs and this is similar to what I did in the RAG Ballot, in which I made 22,500 UVCs.”
“I issued roughly 20 UVCs to those who requested a spare, during the period of the referendum,” he added.
Walker announced the result of the referendum at 7.30pm on Wednesday. He has just been elected Vice President of Wadham’s Student Union, and is also Chair of Monmouth Conservative Future.
The referendum was marred with controversy in OUSU circles when an order was issued banning anyone but the Returning Officer from attending the count. This decision was reversed on May 6th, and the count was attended by the leaders of the two campaigns.