Image description: Against a dark blue background is white text and graphics. On the left is a graphic of a hand putting a piece of paper into a ballot box. On the right are the words ‘Guild Elections 2020’.
By Courtney Withers
It’s the first week of physical polling here at UWA, and you know what that means: a whole lot more election and campaign talk. But if, like me, you’re not very well versed in UWA politics, then you’ve come to the right place.
This article contains everything you could possibly need know about this election, and what you can expect this year. If there was a test about Guild Elections, this would be your textbook, and you would most definitely score one-hundred percent (okay, maybe I’m getting a bit excited).
What IS the Guild, and why do we need a body to represent us?
According to the Guild’s website, your “student representative body on campus” is “separate to (but strongly involved with) UWA.” Run by students, for students, the Guild gives you a voice, and also runs activities and communities.
Decisions are made through committee discussions between the thirteen departments. Services like Student Assist, and activities like O-Day, Club Carnivals, and end of semester shows are also all delivered by the Guild.
The thirteen departments of the Guild include:
- Education Council
- Public Affairs Council
- Societies Council
- International Students’
- Residential Students’
- Western Australian Student Aboriginal Corporation
Each contains collectives, associations, and sub-committees.
Elections are purposed with electing official Office Bearers and Ordinary Guild Councillors for 2021, as well as the National Union of Students representatives for the NUS National Conference.
Office Bearers are officers that represent certain departments of the Guild, or hold executive positions (e.g. Environment Officer, or President).
Ordinary Guild Councillors help make decisions that affect the Guild by attending Council meetings (among other roles).
The NUS is the nation-wide equivalent of what the UWA Student Guild does for UWA students, but for universities around Australia.
How will the election run?
The physical voting for Guild Elections this year will run from the 14 – 17th of September, at various locations around UWA. These include:
- Oak Lawn
- Reid Lawn
- Nedlands Café
- Business School
- FJ Clarke Lecture Theatre at Q.EII Medical Centre
- Oral Health Centre of WA
The election is run by the Western Australian Electoral Commission (WAEC), and governed by the UWA Guild Election Regulations, NUS Rules, and Senate Standing Orders.
In 2020, there will be no Senate elections – only Guild and NUS.
The UWA Guild Elections are the biggest university-based election in Australia, so naturally, this is quite a big deal! You only get one vote, so taking the time to understand all party and candidate policies is really important.
Any enrolled UWA student is eligible to vote. However, voting is not compulsory.
When can I vote in the election?
Voting for Guild Elections is done on campus (unless you are doing a postal vote), so hit up any of the following locations:
Mon 14 Sept
10am – 5pm: Oak Lawn.
11am – 3pm: Nedlands Cafe.
Tues 15 Sept
10am – 5pm: Oak Lawn.
11am – 3pm: Business School.
Wed 16 Sept
10am – 5pm: Oak Lawn.
11am – 3pm: FJ Clarke Lecture Theatre, QE II Medical Centre.
Thurs 17 Sept
10am – 5pm: Oak Lawn.
11am – 3pm: Medical-Dental Library.
For those that are unable to vote on campus during those four days, there is the option of postal voting. The application to apply for postal voting during the election is available now on the Guild website. The deadline for receipt of postal votes is 5pm, Thursday the 24th September.
I sat down with Returning Officer for the Guild Elections, Mary Petrou, and Guild Managing Director, Tony Goodman, about the running and regulations of the Guild Elections.
Courtney Withers: How are the elections run, and who is in charge?
Mary Petrou: First of all, Tony [Goodman] approaches the WA Electoral Commission to appoint a returning officer.
They appoint me, and I am in charge of the electoral procedures — ordering materials, ballot boxes, making sure the nominations come in correctly, checking that they are eligible to nominate, doing the ballot paper draw, getting the ballot papers designed and printed, and employing staff to work on the four days, and the count night.
We complete the count on Thursday night — we start at five o’clock, and go until we’re finished.
Sometimes it’s very close and I have to do a recount. All of the results on the Thursday night are provisional — it’s not the final result.
CW: What voting system is used?
MP: It’s an optional proportional voting system — as long as there is a number one on there, it’s a formal vote.
If I don’t get an absolute majority, which I have to do with a proportional voting system, then I have to go to the second preferences, and distribute the second preferences.
That is different to the NUS and OGC, which works on a voter system to punch out the numbers.
Tony Goodman: Unlike [an American] Presidential [election], where they ring up and concede, they won’t [in these elections]. This election goes right until the end.
MP: I then write my report of the election, and because we have such a huge ballot paper this year, I thought I would take some time and do an analysis of informal votes.
Any complaints that come through that are to do with the regulations, I make a determination on it.
TG: The other important thing to remember is, it’s not compulsory to vote.
CW: What are the regulations in place for the candidates themselves?
MP: The students have been asked to sign a code of conduct, which means that if they don’t abide by the University’s rules, and our rules, then it could get escalated to the University — which means that something more serious could happen.
TG: The Guild won’t actually intervene in the election, but the University may pull people aside if the code of conduct is breached, and administer their own discipline.
The University will be taking a particular interest in defamation, racism, and homophobia — they will take a huge step on that behaviour. Also, any aggressive behaviour at the booths, or in the cyber space will be taken seriously. Any violent misconduct, will be referred to the police.
The booths will have some extra UWA security around, so if there are any problems, action will be taken.
CW: What about postal votes?
MP: This year we have extended the postal votes for a week, simply because of coronavirus, which gives people extra time.
The postal votes have to be back to me by 24th September at 5pm. It will go back to 5pm on the Thursday [at the close of physical polling] next year.
The applications for postal voting will close on Friday 11th September at 4pm.
CW: What about recounts?
MP: For the Guild President, if it’s very close, I’ll do a recount. It’s normally within ten percent for a recount. I don’t do any recounts for any of the other positions.
On the topic of scrutiny, there is one scrutineer per group, per table [when counting the votes]. In the era of COVID, there will be only one scrutineer per group. I’ll also do a flick check.
CW: When does campaigning start for the elections?
MP: That’s a great question, and a very important one. Campaigning for the Presidential candidates, and the reveal of who will be on the ballot form, commenced on the 4th September at 5pm.
When the clock hit 5pm, it was a mad dash to Facebook to see all of the presidential candidates update their profile pictures to announce their campaign. Only once this occurred, did the campaigning for the election season officially begin.
If any candidate published campaign material before this date, they will be penalised and face consequences from the University.
The campaigning for the election will run from 4th September, until the actual polling of the elections has closed [17th September].
CW: What is happening with campaigning?
TG: There’s a lunch break, from 12-1pm [during polling week]. People can still go and vote, but there will be no campaigning. It’s also good for the candidates to have a break, and not feel like they’re losing a vote because they’re getting a sausage roll.
Anyone who is campaigning, has to be able to prove that they are a UWA student. Non-UWA students will be dismissed from the grounds. It stops people shipping in from other Universities.
MP: Libraries are still out of bounds for flyers. It’s a work area only.
CW: When will the results of the election be announced?
MP: The results are usually announced when I have gone in and signed certificates once everything’s finished. We then email Tony the results.
TG: The official announcement has to be done on the Guild website. The candidates themselves will be told in person, before the results are published on the website.
CW: How has coronavirus impacted the running of the elections this year?
MP: Coronavirus means that every second voting screen will be out, so voters won’t be able to vote on each screen — which means the process is going to be slower.
[This year] there are three hundred and ninety candidates on the ballot paper. If somebody wishes to fill every one of them out, it will take them at least half an hour to do that.
People will be waiting in line longer [to vote]. They will be physically distanced, but they will be waiting in line longer.
TG: If you want to vote you can go into the neutral ‘free zone’, where candidates will be, and a voting line will be marked around that.
There’s also no campaigning in lectures, because there’s no lectures on. Some of the cafes will have notice boards up, which will be monitored.
Now you’re well and truly prepared with enough information to understand the basics of Guild Elections.
Be across all of the information, do you research before you cast your vote, and get involved with the spirit of Guild Elections in 2020.
If you haven’t already, check out Pelican’s ‘The 2020 Election: Get to Know Your Candidates’ podcast, hosted by myself and Lifestyle Editor Francesca De Nuccio, to hear from all of your candidates. That podcast, paired with this ‘How To’ guide, will pair quite nicely together (if I do say so myself!).
If you have any specific questions about the elections, email [email protected].
Courtney has Nancy Drewed the sh*t out of this election.
Image courtesy of UWA Student Guild