Following claims of ballot-stuffing and “serious irregularities”, Oxford University’s Student Union has rejected the results of a student-wide referendum to leave the NUS.
It has been discovered that over a thousand “unique voter codes” – used to vote online – which had never been assigned to students, were nevertheless used to vote “No” in short bursts at a similar time. The votes, cast through software called Mi-Voice, have been traced to the same IP address.
Wednesday’s result, in which the “No” campaign received 1,780 votes to 1,652 for “Yes”, now no longer stands after it was overturned by a committee at OUSU, the student union.
The incident is understood to have been referred to the University’s Proctors’ Office, which deals with student discipline.
The real result is thought to be 70 per cent in favour of staying in the national union.
“Votes were cast using a significant number of codes which were never distributed to voters,” the ruling read.
“According [sic] we direct the Returning Officer to declare this referendum result void, under Schedule 3 of the Referendum Election Regulations 26(e),” it added.
Tom Rutland, OUSU’s outgoing president and the leader of the campaign to stay in the NUS, will now bring a motion to the union’s council in two weeks to reaffiliate, meaning there is unlikely to be another poll.
The original complaint was submitted by Jack Matthews, leader of the “No” campaign, despite the result being in his favour.
"While recognising that students did indeed vote to remain affiliated to NUS, it is hard to see how anyone can claim victory when democracy has been so brazenly violated,” he said.
"I welcome the result of the junior tribunal - it is absolutely right that the entire referendum has been voided. We must now wait for a response from other investigations which will seek to discover who perpetrated this crime. In the meantime, I would urge people to ask the questions that need to be asked for the future of OUSU, and not the ones that satisfy curiosity.”
Student Alexander Walker – the returning officer in the referendum and the chair of Monmouth Conservative Future – has resigned his post, acknowledging in a statement that “the grave situation with the NUS referendum happened under my watch”.
"In light of the recent events concerning the NUS referendum, I have come to the decision that my position is no longer tenable. Although we do not currently understand how this happened, I do not believe that I should continue in this position as with my academic pressures as a second year chemist, I am unable to fulfil my duties.”
“The Proctors are aware of the complaint made to OUSU and are monitoring developments,” a university spokesperson said.