Suppression of 2021 ANUSA Election Results Stirs Controversy
By Helena Burke
A Motion compelling ANUSA General Secretary Taylor Heslington to publish the ANUSA election results was passed at SRC last Wednesday. Currently, information on the number of votes received by each candidate in this year’s election have not been released. Heslington defended her decision at SRC, citing that candidates have provided “convincing” reasons for requesting that the results be withheld.
The Motion was moved by General Representative Will Fletcher in response to the “significant number of candidates [who] have requested election results from the 2020 ANUSA election be suppressed”. The demands of Fletcher’s motion were expressed in three subpoints:
1. That the ANUSA SRC compel the General Secretary (Heslington) to publish the full results of all non-department elections from the 2020 ANUSA Elections on the Association’s website.
2. That the SRC compel Heslington to publish any previously unpublished non-department election results from earlier ANUSA elections, if this information is still available.
3. That the SRC reaffirm that transparency and accountability are vital to the functioning of ANUSA and its elections.
In a statement to Observer, Heslington said that her decision to offer candidates the option to request that results be suppressed was “based on precedent from last year”. Heslington also cited a desire to “strike a balance between ensuring the availability of election results and preserving the wellbeing of candidates”.
As the publication of voting statistics is not addressed in the ANUSA Constitution or the Election Regulations, the decision to release the results falls to the General Secretary, and election officers.
Fletcher and other members of the SRC argued strongly against Heslington’s approach. Socialist Alternative member Grace Carter saw the suppression as being “symptomatic of a broader bureaucratic system of ANUSA”, asserting that it was “a basic principle of a democracy” that the results be published. Speaking to the motion, Fletcher argued that “if you’re running for the election…you kind of accept that you might not win”.
Ned Strange, who acted as a probity officer in this year’s election, moved an amendment to remove Subpoint 2 of the Motion, which called on the SRC to ‘compel’ Heslington to release all previously unpublished election results. Strange noted that the ANUSA constitution requires the association to hold election results for only one year, which would pose difficulties for the requirement in Subpoint 2 for ANUSA to release last year’s results.
Section 4.7 of the ANUSA constitution provides that the General Secretary “must retain a record of votes cast in the election for up to 12 months after the election”.
Environment Officer Grace Hill criticised Strange’s amendment, arguing that withholding results “would be a scandal [in ordinary politics]”, and that ultimately it was “wrong to have told people that their election results would be suppressed”.
Strange’s amendment did not pass, and the motion ultimately passed with all three subpoints.
Following on from the voting up of this motion, Heslington informed Observer that she will begin working with ANUSA staff this week to locate election results from previous years, and will be publishing this year’s election results on the ANUSA website.
Heslington added that she will be proposing an amendment to the Election Regulations at ANUSA’s Ordinary General Meeting on 15 October in order to “provide clarity to future election candidates about the publication of election results”.
The incoming ANUSA General Secretary for 2021 was contacted for comment