BREAKING: Excluded Grassroots tickets lodge official appeal to legal arbiter
WORDS BY JOSH WOOLLER
The seventeen tickets, comprising of seventy-nine students from USyd political faction ‘Grassroots’ that were excluded from the upcoming SRC election have lodged an appeal to a legal arbiter. The tickets, represented by Grassroots campaign manager Daniel Ergas argue that Returning Officer Paulene Graham “erred in her application of the regulations” in relation to her decision to refuse Grassroots’ applications on the basis they were not lodged in time.
As reported by Pulp, the Returning Officer advised Grassroots that they had failed to submit SRC nomination forms before the advertised time of 4:30pm. In an email explaining her decision, Returning Officer Graham told Ergas “that nominations lodged on line but not received by me by 4.30pm today will not be accepted and have not been included in the ballot draw”. She continued that pursuant to Regulation 8.5(c), a nomination shall only be deemed as valid if it is "received by the Electoral Officer before the close of nomination."
Ergas contends, however, that the nominations should be regarded as valid. The appellant argues that prior to the 4:30pm deadline, nominations had been paid for and submitted via the SRC’s online website. It is also argued that a representative from Grassroots offered the relevant nomination forms to the Returning Officer at 4:29pm, but was advised that they must be "placed on a counter" within the SRC building. Ergas contends that the Returning Officer’s instructions do not comply with the ‘Notice of Elections’, which only states that the nominations must be received ‘in person’ to the Returning Officer. The appeal further states, that given the ‘crowded nature of the room, the heckling of other factions representatives, and the shambolic nature of the process itself, the individuals handing in the nominations did not hear her instruction; and, even if they did, would have been unlikely to interpret it as an instruction specific to nominations, or a statement designed to disallow handing the nominations directly to the EO’.
The second contention made by Ergas, is that the regulations are ambiguous in regards to the meaning of a "4:30pm deadline". While Graham contends in her email to Ergas that there could be no ambiguity surrounding the exact time of the deadline given that “each year [she] stands in the SRC foyer and counts down the time left to lodge a nomination for the last 10 minutes”, Ergas argues that “if nominations are accepted no later than 4:30pm, it implies that nominations will be accepted up until and at 4:30pm (up until 4:30:59pm, in other words)”. Therefore, Grassroots argue that the submission of the nominations at 4:30:10pm should be considered acceptable.
Finally, the appeal states that the Returning Officer’s decision was “unreasonable”, given the lack of clarity regarding the correct mode of submission of nominations to the Returning Officer. Due to the crowded nature of the SRC, which denied “free passage” for the nominations to be submitted by the 4:30pm deadline, the lack of notice that the nominations had to be placed on a “particular desk” to constitute a correct submission and because Ergas himself was in hospital recovering from surgery at the time of the deadline, the appeal asks the Returning Officer’s decision to be overturned, and the denied Grassroots tickets to be placed on the ballot.
Returning Officer Paulene Graham has told Ergas that she does not expect the appeal to be successful, arguing that the legal arbiter has heard similar cases in the past, which have all upheld the decision of the Returning Officer:
“Daniel I am so sorry about this but I cannot make an exception for your group contrary to rules that have been imposed on others and upheld by the Legal arbiter.”
However, in previous years, nominations have been accepted after the close of nominations if those nominations were being lodged by people who were already in the office, as in this case. The most relevant example would be of Cameron Caccamo during his nomination to run for SRC President.
Grassroots nominee for SRC president, Imogen Grant, told Pulp that it was hard to “evaluate our chances” when determining if the appeal would be successful, given the lack of clarity over whom would be ruling on the appeal. Though, she did note that the exclusion of Grassroots in the election did not bode well for students wanting a genuine choice in the election. As Grant told Pulp, “students deserve a real choice in these elections; a choice that isn’t just an echo of the politics of Macquarie St.”
Pulp will have more as this story develops.