Thank you to all students who voted across all seven of our elections, and to all candidates who campaigned. Below is a breakdown of the results. Students may have questions about why votes cast for the RON option were removed when the candidate was withdrawn, due to pro-RON campaigners breaking the election rules.
Seun Twins: 1199 votes
Pranjul Khatri: 385 votes
Undergraduate Academic Officer:
Nailah Haque: 854 votes
Declan Merrington: 429 votes
Bran Blackshaw: 344 votes
Postgraduate Academic Officer:
Sarah McAllister: 1041 votes
Ludovico Rella: 599 votes
Anna Marshall: 1709 votes
Welfare and Liberation Officer:
Ewan Swift: 1299 votes
Amelia McLoughlan: 557 votes
Trustee Term 1:
Ensharah Sodha: 947
Gregory Pandise: 409
Trustee Term 2:
Max Kirk: 806
Kamil Hepak: 757
Yash Raju: 516
We are keen to respond to students who requested further clarification regarding the news that any vote which had ‘Re-open Nominations’ as its first place was entirely dis-counted. Durham SU's standing orders state that 'Re-Open Nominations will be a candidate in all elections'. All candidates in an election are subject to the same rules. This means that those who campaign for RON, like those who campaign for any other candidate, can break the rules, and their candidate be warned or removed as a result. During the election, a complaint was made against RON. Due to the nature of the complaint and its impact upon the election, action needed to be taken to ensure that the rights of other candidates, and those of the thousands of voters who wanted to see candidates elected whose campaigns kept within the rules, were taken into account.
The disqualification of RON was unprecedented as a decision but was the right decision, as the rule breach meant the campaign was unfair to voters and other candidates. Further information on the complaint can be found here.
The decision was reviewed by the external Returning Officer, Peter Robertson, the Acting Chief Executive of NUS, on the request of the Deputy Returning Officer due to the implications of the complaint and action.
58% of first preferences across the officer elections were for RON - so while the rule breach which unfairly advantaged RON cannot be overlooked, we cannot and do not underestimate the level of student support for the campaign.
However, RON broke the rules, a complaint was made and RON was removed as a candidate from the election, a decision reviewed and upheld by the external Returning Officer. As such, RON’s votes do not contribute to the count, or to the final result. The system used in the Durham SU elections does not allow RON's votes (which is a system generated candidate, rather than a manually created candidate because they must be a candidate in all elections) votes to be transferred manually. So after confirming the inability of the platform to support transferring RON’s votes, the next best decision was to remove those votes entirely.
This is because the only other option would be invalidating the votes of ALL votes cast in the election, including those for candidates who had not broken the rules. In making the decision it was considered that a) the candidate that had broken the rules (because they were Re-Open Nominations) would effectively have won the election if the election were to invalidated as a result of their rules breach, which is clearly inconsistent with the rules, while all other candidates would be disadvantaged. b) asking candidates to re-run in an election where a campaign had been run which led to significant racism, bullying and harassment had been experienced by those candidates, SU Officers and a number of our student members would not be a safe democratic process, nor would it be a fair one. It is worth noting, that since the election, an apology on behalf of student leaders within the RON campaign was published on the 'Overheard in Durham' Facebook page by the JCR President Leo Harris of Grey College on 17 June. Taking this decision ensured that the complaint outcome was enacted within the rules and that the votes of people who voted for other candidates could be respected.
However necessary it was to ensure that the complaint against the RON campaign was upheld, and the candidate was withdrawn, it is clear that many students will be upset that the software did not allow their votes to be transferred. Durham SU is very sorry that this was the only way to effectively withdraw RON. Our planned Durham SU election improvement work means resolving the technical issues which led to RON not being able to be removed with votes transfer, which would mean this would not be an issue in any future election.
The significance of the RON campaign for Durham SU can’t be overstated - it will set our agenda for the foreseeable future. But that doesn’t mean that a formal complaint and breach of the rules can be ignored in favour of a candidate. We ask students to recognise the responsibility of the Returning Officer to return a fair election in this decision.
As mentioned above, the candidate Re-Open Nominations had to be removed from each election due to a breach of the election rules by the campaign for Re-open Nominations. These votes are therefore not part of the declared voting statistics.
The delay in releasing the voter numbers was due to a hold up within the University’s CIS team, who understandably have other priorities at the present time.
Be part of the conversation, or suggest a different way of having it
We hope students will want to engage constructively in conversation, argument and discussion to help us move forward - because it’s our intention to do so. You can do this:
Protest or campaign
Protest actions are more difficult given the current COVID-19 measures.
However we know some of you might not think our ways of listening will work, or you feel you need to get a message to more students. Durham has lots of great campaigners who are very innovative. Our campaign toolkit collates resources from a broad range of grassroots campaigning organisations, and may be a useful resource to help you identify what specifically you want to change about your SU, and generate effective avenues to achieving that - especially in the current, unique environment. Our ask, and our expectation of all campaigners, always, is that you campaign in a way you are proud of. Falsifying information or deliberately seeking to mislead, bullying or harassing, or acting with the specific goal not of changing a situation but of bringing down a person, is something that nobody should be the victim of.
Make a complaint
If you want to submit a complaint about matters concerning Durham Students’ Union, please follow our complaints procedure, available here.