The ongoing saga of the GSA elections took another twist this evening, as the ICU Court ruled that they were unconstitutional and must be re-run from the beginning. The Court delivered its decision with a "heavy heart", but said it had no choice given the wording of the constitution and the circumstances under which the election took place. It also expressed its dismay at the way the election was administered and sacked the returning officer and elections committee: a Court-appointed returning officer will take over for the re-run.
A number of different issues were referred to the Court including:
- the number of seconders in the election being lowered after nominations had closed
- insufficient publicity
- a post by an observer for one of the candidates on Live! indicating who may have voted
Item 3 was dismissed during the discussion, as the panel were of the opinion that the secrecy of the ballot had not been damaged by the post. Consequently an attempt to have the candidate disqualified for the actions of their observer was not considered, as no wrong-doing took place.
The matter of insufficient publicity was discussed, however emails, posters and the new GSA magazine "Postscript" were all used to advertise that an election was taking place. The Court concluded that the publicity was on the border of what was acceptable, but that it was not unconstitutional because the election had not been held in secret. The fact that only ten people voted was not seen as unconstitutional in its own right, however the Court did criticise the returning officer: she was informed that only three people had voted almost half way through the election and was unable to offer a suitable explanation as to why she thought turnout would increase dramatically in the second half.
The re-run was ordered solely on the basis of one point, that of the reduction in seconders after nominations. Originally set at 11 votes, this was reduced to 5 while nominations were open, then down to 1 when they had closed. The Court ruled that this was not acceptable, as the returning officer would have the power to decide who could or could not run by adjusting the seconders: the number of seconders must be set at the start of an election and not subsequently changed. This ruling will not apply retrospectively to the ICU Council elections at the start of this academic year, where the required number of seconders in the postgraduate constituencies was lowered after several candidates had trouble finding eleven people.
A further comment by the Court effectively banned extensions to the duration of a ballot while it was taking place, something which has occured many times in the past. In future any problems which would lead to an extension of voting times must be dealt with by a re-run.
The previous election is now null and void, with any results cancelled. New elections will be held as soon as possible, with the aim of concluding the ballot by the handover date of 1st August.