SRC Passes Groundbreaking Electoral Reform
Changes to the voting regulations of the Sydney University Student Representative Council were passed tonight at a meeting of the current council.
The new regulations, proposed by General Secretaries Isabella Pytka (SLS) and Daniel Ergas (Grassroots), in conjunction with Councillor Samuel Chu (Independent) notably address a reduction of campaign length of three weeks of in-person campaigning to one week, a standardised polling end-time for all polling locations, a lowered expenditure per ticket and per candidate, and an increased exclusion zone to a ten-metre radius in polling locations.
Such changes broadly aim to amend a culture of aggression and encroachment towards potential voters that can emerge during the often contentious election period in September. They further strive to reduce the physical and emotional strain that campaigners and voters alike encounter.
This is not the first time changes to electoral regulations have been proposed. In 2015, students Cameron Caccamo, Riki Scanlan and Georgia Kriz rewrote the regulations of the SRC in their entirety, including Section 8 which pertains to elections. According to Caccamo, Councillors refused to attend council meetings in an attempt to prevent the regulations from being passed. Under the previous regulations, it was feasible for electoral brands to coerce vulnerable students into voting in their favour – an ethical loophole which could swing the vote in their own direction.
A proposal to allow only one campaigner from each electoral brand to speak to one potential voter at the same time, did not, however, pass. Caccamo told Pulp, “It is now up to campaigners to regulate themselves and ensure no student is made to feel unsafe or coerced through having multiple students campaigning at them simultaneously. If recent behaviour – including crowding around students as they walk up and down stairs, or having campaigners pushed down stairs due to overcrowding – continues, then this should be addressed next year”.
Pytka highlighted the importance of the regulation changes for both students and the electoral process."These changes to the regulations will make the SRC elections a better experience for the campaigners, candidates, the staff of the SRC and the students of USyd. Changes including shortening the length of the election the syncing of booth times will contribute to making sure elections are free and fair, and are of benefit to everyone. We have made consultation with other students a priority, and without that, we would not have been successful."
Nevertheless, this fresh electoral model will present a seismic shift in the landscape of the annual SRC elections, notorious for becoming heated, and at worst violent. Pytka herself was the target of physical abuse from members of an opposing ticket in the 2016 polling period.
Ergas, who helped spearhead the regulatory changes, maintains a positive outlook. “These changes to the regulations reduce the length of the SRC elections from three and a half interminable weeks of misery to only a week of campaigning, and three days of voting. They put in place safeguards for voters to prevent them from being physically and verbally abused by campaigners. They reduce the spending cap of campaigns down some thousands of dollars. Even little things - like the RO producing nonpartisan 'I voted!' stickers - will make the process fairer and less stressful. Fundamentally, these changes will make students safer, and open up our elections to more students from more backgrounds than ever before. You don't need to be an Arts' student with Daddy's money to compete anymore.”
Though NLS, Unity, and the moderate Liberals were apprehensive about the changes when proposed earlier this year, tonight they were received with almost unanimous agreement from councillors of all student factions, bar those representing Socialist Alternative.
"I'm so happy the changes have passed - they go some way to reducing the burden that is SRC elections on normal students. I'm bloody thrilled, to be honest," said Chu.