SRC to Hear Recommendation on Change in Election Regulations
The University of Sydney Students’ Representative Council are set to hear arguments at their next meeting, which may significantly alter the current running of SRC and Honi Soit elections.
The regulations, written by SRC General Secretaries Bella Pytka and Daniel Ergas working with Samuel Chu, according to Pytka, aim to “make the campaign a better experience for not only campaigners and candidates, but the majority of voters”.
Under proposed changes, no more than one person per Honi Soit or SRC campaign “may campaign to a voter or a single group of voters at the same time”.
The regulation change would seek to combat aggressive contesting of votes by numerous members of tickets, which has been noted to cause distress to voters.
Cameron Caccamo, who was involved in the drafting of proposed SRC regulation changes in 2015 reasoned that the changes are likely to lead to a “fairer election”, though the changes will only work “if campaigners adhere to them”.
The proposed regulations also seek to shorten campaign times for both Honi and SRC elections, from three weeks [total] to eight days for online campaigning and five days for in person campaigning. This move follows the USU making the decision to shorten Union Board campaigns by three days, in an effort to reduce the onerous stress on candidates and campaigners, who are often forced to take time off class and work.
In an effort to further increase the safety of both campaigners and voters, the proposed changes to regulations also recommend an increase of the exclusion zone of voting from 10 metres to 15 metres, as well as imposing an 18 month ban on individuals running for office in the event that the regulations are egregiously contravened.
Finally, the recommended changes to the regulations deem that SRC ticket brands will be capped at spending $4,000 down from $5,500 in previous years. Honi Soit election budgets under the proposals would remain the same.
The amendments to be debated also suggest a change to the method of payment for Returning Officers. Instead of a Returning Officer being paid a stipend “commensurate with the work undertaken and the award rate”, the council will determine the total stipend. This would likely reduce the amount paid to Returning Officers in an effort to lower expenditure on elections for the SRC.
In an effort to enfranchise potential candidates unfamiliar with factions at USyd the regulations stipulate that prospective nominees may submit a 100 word expression of interest fifteen days prior to the close of nominations to give consent that their details be accessed by campaign managers wishing to firm tickets. This system, which has been instituted successfully at ANU, would aim to increase participation of USyd students in student politics, outside of traditional factional groups.
While these regulations will be debated at the next meeting, they will not be voted on until at least the following council. While Bella Pytka acknowledged that “every faction wants change” her “gut feeling was that the regulations would not pass in their current form”. Pytka also believed that several factions and other interested parties had not been consulted “enough for her liking” and that while she will “continue to work on these regulations”, if they were submitted as they currently stand, she would not be moving them.
Pytka from Sydney Labor Students (one of the two Labor left factions on campus) and Ergas from Grassroots command a total of ten votes on council. Shu, the independents and the unaligned account for another six votes. A total of seventeen votes is needed for the changes to pass. This means that they will likely need the support of either the moderate Liberals or the National Labor Students.
If the regulations were not to pass, which seems likely, this would only add another chapter to the never-ending story of proposed electoral reform.