The 2020 ANUSA elections are off to a rocky start, with software issues delaying polls opening by 24 hours, voiding 250 votes. Initially, the delay was only for one hour, but further complications have caused a longer delay. Last year, the total amount of votes cast was 2321.
The first issue was due to the MSL website changing candidate information in contradiction with information put in through ANUSA. This error affected candidates who were running on two separate tickets, as the system was only allowing people to be listed under one ticket. For example, those who are running on one ticket as an executive candidate and another as an NUS delegate. There had been 39 votes cast between 9am and 9.15am when the problem was discovered.
Once the polls reopened at 10am, the candidates were displayed in the wrong order, despite a specified order of candidates entered into the MSL system. ANUSA President Lachy Day emphasised that this issue was ‘a mistake on MSL’s part” and that ANUSA would be unable to rectify this until the company responded to their concerns.
ANUSA have chosen to delay the entire election for 24 hours so that all issues with the system can be ironed out and “a smooth election process can still occur.” Day noted that “any votes cast on Monday will be voided and votes will need to be recast”. Speaking with Woroni, Day commented that he is not sure whether they will be able to access the individual data of those who voted today due to the way that the system is created, and therefore notify them that they will need to recast their vote.
In statements to Woroni, the ticket convenors expressed their disappointment that the election had been delayed.
Kai Clark, who is running for Undergraduate Member on ANU Council noted that “while it undermines the momentum that everyone has built up, and may have a slight negative effect on turnout, I don’t think anyone would be substantially at a disadvantage. Much like COVID, this affects all of us and should advantage none of us.”
Dominic Harvey-Taylor, an independent candidate for General Secretary commented that he had been asked by students to submit a Freedom of Information request to ANUSA to further understand the problems behind the delay in voting. He mentioned that “It’s no secret that the bulk of voting during ANUSA elections happens on the first day when polls open, so this will certainly have an effect. What that effect will be, it’s hard to say.”
Harvey-Taylor conceded that “most tickets build their campaign around the first day of polling” and that “this will be unfortunate for them.” However, he also believes that in terms of his campaign, it will be to his benefit, as it gives “more time for voters to engage… with my policy” He also said that he does not “have any paid advertising scheduled today, as I’m not a fan of giving money to Mark Zuckerburg.”
‘Proud! of our ANUSA’ commented that they “are obviously disappointed, though our campaign won’t be deterred. Our greatest concern currently is for the passionate students who voted this morning whose votes have now been lost.” They are also in the process of “requesting clarification from the Returning Officer and ANUSA as to whether those who have cast their votes will be contacted to inform them to revote.” They also encouraged people to ensure that they revote.
‘Refocus your ANUSA’ said that they are “disappointed that the start of the election has been delayed and we are gravely concerned about the impact this will have on student engagement with this election. We do expect this to disenfranchise voters and anticipate a lower turnout as a consequence. This is especially disappointing considering the low engagement ANUSA elections already have.”
They also commented that “it is immensely distressing that individuals are using this delay as a means to further their political standing in this election. Unfortunately the software hasn’t lived up to our expectations as a student community, but it is improper to consider this as an attempt to pursue a political objective.” They also raised the question of whether the MSL software is the best way forward for ANUSA elections as “there have been consistent issues with the use of MSL for clubs funding & in previous elections.”
‘Brighter Together’ noted that “obviously the delay is discouraging because now we have to worry about miscommunication of information around voting times and also voter turnout/whether those that already cast their vote will come back to vote again. However, these things happen and we acknowledge that it was outside of ANUSA’s control.”
‘Go the Distance’ said that they “regret that this has happened, but are relieved that all students will get the chance to get to vote again and that polls will be open until noon Friday.” They also raised the question of MSL’s suitability, as “issues consistently occur with MSL every year, but this is an issue for ANUSA consider when that contract comes up for renewal.”
They praised the work that ANUSA has done so far in running the elections “in challenging circumstances” and chastised tickets that are claiming the delay was intentional. “Any suggestion that this was a malicious act is frankly irresponsible, and we hope that this does not distract from an election in which voters have the chance to choose from a wide variety of deserving candidates” they said.
Socialist Alternative aligned ticket ‘Fight the Liberals!’ commented that “this is classic incompetency from the people who run ANUSA. It’s also an undemocratic disgrace, disenfranchising students who have voted, and further disillusioning students who already have very little reason to believe ANUSA is relevant to them.” They also claimed that the delay “advantages the more conservative and passive incumbents from the grassroots-independents faction.”
‘You for ANUSA’ noted that the delay “definitely inconvenienced our ticket immensely. Obviously when campaigning one follows a time table for ads and posts and it has seriously confused voters who thought voting began today. It’s just going to further lower the engagement with ANUSA at such a critical juncture.” They also commented that their “campaign has all been based around reform and this is just another symptom showing why it’s so desperately needed.”
‘A New Way Forward for ANUSA’ commented that “The issues with the voting system are without a doubt frustrating” and commented that “it will mean that we will have to slightly increase our spending on advertising for another day just to remain competitive with larger tickets.” However, they conceded that “through personal experience however, we understand that these things happen, often at the worst possible times.”
Woroni has also reached out to the ‘Sophie for Social’ campaign and the ‘Benjamin Chesler, Undergraduate Voice for ANU Council’ campaign for comment.
Benjamin Chesler commented that he is “concerned that people who cast their vote today may not realise that their votes are void, or don’t feel like going through the lengthy process again. I also think an extra day of voting, while necessary, lengthens a campaign that has already felt like it’s going on too long. I know I’m exhausted already, and voting hasn’t even begun.”