In our last edition of this magazine, we ran a short piece story about the at-time-of-writing still-being-conducted AUSA elections.
Immediately after that issue was sent to print, a number of new stories broke, and with that came a number of new pieces of information.
Around 40,000 students attend the University of Auckland. In theory, all of them are eligible to be members in AUSA. In practise, only about half that number are actually signed up.
Of those 20,000 students, only 882 voted in this year’s election – for a fairly miserable 4% turnout.
AUSA elections have struggled with low engagement over recent years, and single-percentage turnouts are not unprecedented. However, that number is massively down from last year, which saw a turnout of one and a half times that – around 1400 students.
By comparison, the Canterbury University Students Association – who held their election campaign just a week after AUSA held theirs – had a whopping 5,889 ballots cast, even with their much smaller student base.
No-confidence numbers saw a slight uptick, but remained roughly in roughly the same window as previous years.
Anand Rama, who was elected AUSA President in an unopposed race, had 111 no-confidence votes cast against him – equivalent to almost 18% of his vote total. Anna Cusack, this year’s President, had a no-confidence vote equivalent to 12% of her total vote-share. Will Matthews had a no confidence vote of around 14% in his inaugural race.
AUSA receives around $2 million per year in funding – derived from student fees, established property holdings, and funds granted to them by the University.
The election results were withheld for almost a full day so that the Returning Officer – who manages the logistics of the election – could investigate the validity of the outcome.
Emily MacDonald, who is currently serving as AUSA’s Student Engagement Officer, was given administrative access to “OrgSync”, which is the portal that the University and AUSA use to manage on-campus events. It is also the platform AUSA uses to run their online voting.
In theory, that shouldn’t have been a problem – it is possible to set up different types of access within OrgSync for different kinds of events. Having that OrgSync access is an important part of Emily’s current role, as well.
However, for whatever reason, that differentiated access wasn’t set up, and Emily was able to access the AUSA election back-end.
It was the discovery of this fact that triggered the investigation, because the fact that she had that access could have hypothetically manipulated the election outcomes – admins with the right level of responsibility are able to delete logged responses to OrgSync polls.
The Returning Officer decided that there wasn’t any evidence of any wrongdoing.
Emily was ultimately docked 20% of her vote share for “improper use of AUSA resources” – the default punishment for that particular infraction, as given in the election handbook.
That was not enough to change the balance of her election, with Emily ultimately winning her election race 382 votes to 245.
Candidate for Student Engagement Vice President, Felixe Poole, has told Craccum that his his campaign posters were pulled down by University janitorial staff on no less than three separate occasions during the voting period.
Poole was one of very few candidates to poster as part of his campaign for the position – a product, in part, of the relative lack of competition in this election. Normally, during election time, the AUSA quad is fully postered.
Poole ultimately lost in his election bid by a relatively tight margin – only 137 votes.