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Election of student Council members – result of appeal

News story

Curtin University received appeals against the results of the election of the undergraduate and postgraduate student Council members that occurred in March this year. Approximately 9% of eligible students had voted in the undergraduate election and approximately 11% in the postgraduate election.

A grey building, contrasting against a blue sky with white clouds

Curtin appointed an independent barrister to conduct and determine the appeals. On 31 May 2022, the barrister determined that the elections did not meet two of the technical requirements of Statute No. 5 – Election of Council Members. He found that the elections should be annulled and that fresh elections for the undergraduate and postgraduate positions on Council should be held. That will now occur.

Grounds of appeal

The appeals were generally on the same grounds, namely that:

  1. Curtin had a conflict of interest in conducting the elections itself and should have appointed an independent returning officer.
  2. Curtin should not have used an online voting portal for the election.
  3. There were people eligible to vote who did not receive the information required to vote.
  4. There were not 3 days between Curtin providing the notice of ballot to students eligible to vote and the opening of the polls, as required by the Election Statute.

Findings of person conducting the appeal

The independent barrister made enquiries and found that:

  1. There was no conflict of interest in Curtin undertaking the election. There was no conflict in respect of the returning officer.
  2. The online voting portal offers significant practical advantages including voter convenience and avoiding the need for printing and posting ballot papers. Its introduction at Curtin has resulted in a substantial increase in the participation rate in elections. It was within the discretion of the returning officer to decide to use an online voting portal. Other Australian universities use online voting portals.
  3. The list of enrolled students eligible to vote was generated on 8 February 2022. It should have been generated after the opening of nominations on 14 February 2022, as required by the Election Statute. Whilst the independent barrister was not convinced there were many in this category, he found it likely that some eligible electors were not sent the ballot link for this reason.
  4. Curtin’s process of sending out an electronic link to the ballot page on the day that voting commenced was not compliant with the Election Statute. There must be 3 working days between the provision of the electronic link to the ballot page and the commencement of voting.

Given how close the election results were, the independent barrister found that these technical matters may have altered the outcome of the elections and so directed that Curtin hold fresh elections.

Next steps

Further communications will follow shortly about the new elections for the undergraduate and postgraduate student Council members, which will be held as soon as practicable.

Curtin would like to thank the previously successful candidates Lapo Bigazzi and Ayomide Ogundipe for their service on Council in the period since the election.