Students and candidates have encountered problems with the online voting system for OUSU elections, with voters unable to go back after logging on to the system.
The Student Union has also received criticism for failing to make candidates’ hustings videos available to students, with RO Martine Wauben explaining that videos “ended up in little pieces on different devices”, and that “fixing them would take until after polls close”.
OUSU has had difficulties with voting systems all term after they failed to renew their subscription to online system “mi-voice”.
Ex-OUSU Council Chair Nick Cooper told Cherwell, “While there is an explanation of voting on the Elections page, I feel that this could have been highlighted more clearly from the OUSU home page for those not as familiar with the OUSU website as I am. I also think it’s unfortunate that the new system doesn’t permit returning to vote in new elections.”
After Cherwell contacted the three Presidential candidates, Team ABC’s Becky Howe summarised, “It’s not good really.
“Some people have said voting’s really difficult to work out — there hasn’t been a proper explanation on how to do it, even something like an explanatory paragraph or video would’ve been really helpful.”
OUSU Returning Officer Martine Wauben however, maintained, “I have not received any such complaints. If voting is indeed unclear, we’d be happy to clarify further, but it seems that not being able to go back is not unusual to most. My only comment would be: please do contact me if you have any difficulty or questions, I’m always happy to clarify!”
Meanwhile, students expressed frustration at OUSU’s failure to put up the videos of hustings in time for the elections.
St Hilda’s student Helena Dollimore tweeted, “V disappointed @ousunews won’t be making election hust videos available to students — videos are great for improving turnout!”
She also told Cherwell, “Whilst I’m sure that no individual is to blame, the voting system this year is far from ideal; scores of people have found it hard to navigate the site; not helped by the lack of prominence given to elections on the website, and candidates haven’t been given instructions to print on their posters and leaflets.”
Ex-OUSU Chair Nick Cooper said he became aware of the technical problems with video while at hustings. He commented, “The Returning Officer does have to delegate some duties, and it’s unfortunate that on this occasion, a really great way to reach out to voters (neutrally) has been lost.”
Becky Howe meanwhile explained that her slate “are very disappointed”. She told Cherwell that, “Without the hustings videos, the vast majority of students won’t have seen us hust, so won’t be able to make an informed decision. It’s such a shame, because Cat in particular performed brilliantly in hustings, and it’s not fair that the student body won’t be able to see that. We have our own videos — which we’ve put up on our Facebook page — but we didn’t film the other candidates, so students are unable to compare candidates husting before voting.
“I appreciate that there were technical difficulties, but it’s pretty ridiculous that this has happened.”
Helena Dollimore echoed Howe’s frustrations, adding, “The lack of videos is also disappointing. Anyone can produce a glossy manifesto, but husts and questions are where you really see who the strongest candidate is.”
RO Wauben agreed that not having the videos is “very unfortunate” and apologised to voters, explaining, “Due to technical difficulties which all those present at central hustings were immediately aware of, different devices were used to record the speeches and questions.
“Putting together the pieces of video where individual devices failed is a huge amount of work for our staff, and they simply would not be able to fix these into proper full videos until it is too late already. Therefore, we made the decision to inform the candidates as soon as this became clear.
“We hope that manifestoes, videos for sabbatical candidates, and engagement with students at hustings and during these campaigning days will still inform voters of the qualities of the candidates.”
Current OUSU President Louis Trup told Cherwell that he agreed with Wauben’s sentiments, adding, “Once the elections are over, we will make sure to look at ways to improve for next year.”
Referring to both problems facing voters, Cooper vowed to review the elections process at the next OUSU Council meeting, adding, “I feel this needs careful review for future elections, especially if turnout is lower than expected. I will be bringing a motion to 7th week Council to, as in previous years, set up a Review Group and seek submissions from students about how to improve the elections process and get more people involved.”
The other presidential candidates could not be reached.
Voting closes at 6pm today. Results are set to be announced on Oxide radio shortly after 8pm, and on Cherwell.org shortly after.