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The full time officer elections of last term were by no means as much of a failure as some have made them out to be; one particular slurred acceptance speech at the results being no exception. But, lets name no names and move swiftly on! The vote count was up on the previous year by a marked amount, there were 15 initial candidates that entered, in some cases, the closest races we have seen in recent years and the first voting day provided Alex Square with one of the liveliest campaign days Lancaster has seen in a long time.
However, the E-Voting system that was supposed to deliver a radical change in election numbers fell sadly short of the expectations. One problem here was that the ‘electronic’ part did not go far enough. It was certainly a positive to make the elections more physically accessible by ditching all the paper and allowing anyone to vote at any time, anywhere. But a major opportunity was missed when there was little effort put in to E-Promotion, E-Manifestos and E-Publicity; with that in mind though, it was probably wise to make sure the system worked first before trying to put icing on the cake. An example of such a missed opportunity was the way in which the curious couldn’t find out who was even running for the elections, unless they went to a sub section of the main union website and scrolled down half the page. Even then, they would find only a name and position heading. Not exactly the most visually stimulating, appealing or interactive website and one far from accessible for the average student.
After looking at other union attempts to publicise their elections, Lancaster is sadly lacking in the kind of exposure that is needed to engage with the more apathetic student. The University of Plymouth had their take on the old white and red ‘RUN DMC’ band logo, branding their elections in the same style, but as ‘RUN UPSU’. Complimented by a complete change in web advertising, branding of special music events and merchandise that was actually wearable on a night out, this ‘theme’ far from trivialised the elections. For want of a better word, it made them a whole lot more ‘cool’. Southampton University had an on-line system that had interactive election calendars, blog posts from candidates and interactive manifestos, videos, event publicity and husting calendars. On our hustings day, there was not one word on the central union website about the candidates or their campaigns. Problem? I think so.
However, the onus cannot be entirely placed upon bubble.lusu.co.uk. There are many other aspects of the elections that desperately need re-evaluating before even more people are disillusioned from what is actually happening within their Student’s Union and campus politics as a whole. The strict rules about Facebook and bar campaigning need to be removed entirely, it should be far easier to campaign for support from individual clubs and societies and, most importantly, we need to encourage negative campaigning.
As long as it’s not argumentum ad hominem (arguments against the man), negative campaigning initiates division of opinion and discussion amongst the electorate. At the moment, every policy is taken as correct and a given fact (that’s if they are even taken at all), unless it is challenged on the hustings night. Hustings too need to be assessed; I was given a 30 second time limit on answers to questions that deserved a lot more discussion. This surely is not the way to scrutinise our candidates and improvements must be made.
Whatever I and the next Full-Time Executive team decide to do next year, along with election sub-committee and other sections of the student population that is involved, E-Voting is here to stay. The system, although not without its flaws (that will be ironed out over the summer), works. However, we will certainly be reviewing the election bye-law and making the entire process more exciting, more visually appealing and more interactive for the average student. Other than this, perhaps the announcement of the general election will ignite the political consciousness of students on campus. Then again, I’m sure many will merely be creating a fuss over the tax on cider. Cheers.