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Hat Draw Decides USU Vice President Following Voting Error

Alexi Polden reports on the meeting that ended with cries of “bullshit!”

The election for the Executive of the University of Sydney Union tonight ended in loud controversy as the election of Liam Carrigan for Vice President was overturned due to an incorrect vote. In his place, Liv Ronan was elected after a draw from a hat.

The controversy came about when one of the new directors, Atia Rahim, incorrectly cast a vote for President, rather than for Vice President. After handing in her vote, Rahim realised her error and was allowed to submit a fresh ballot for Vice President.

After Rahim’s ballot was re-submitted Liam Carrigan was announced as Vice President 7-6 over Ronan. The meeting then continued to the election of other executive positions.

After the election of Honorary Secretary, Waniganayaka closed her final meeting, allowing new President Aitken-Radburn to take the chair in a new meeting for the election of portfolio holders. Subsequently, after the error was acknowledged, Aitken-Radburn and immediate past President Tara Waniganayaka were asked out of the room by the Returning Officer. After a short recess they returned, closing Aitken-Radburn’s meeting and re-opening Waniganayaka’s, and announced that one of the votes was invalid. Because Atia’s vote was still ostensibly ‘secret’, it had to be distinguished from the other ballots by graphology (looking at the handwriting). This was despite the fact that Board Director Ed McMahon called that approach “pseudoscience”—an opinion shared by Wikipedia.

After Rahim‘s vote for Carrigan was officially declared invalid, the Vice President vote was then split 6-6 and declared by a draw out of a hat.

Inexplicably—which is to say, with 50% chance—Ronan’s name was drawn, and she was declared Vice President of the Union.

The room immediately erupted in cries of “bullshit”, and a number of board directors were visibly distressed. What followed was a shouting match between Waniganayaka and Aitken-Radburn—who nominated Carrigan—about whether the election could be declared out of order. Waniganayaka determined that it could not be, and closed the meeting.

It is possible that a motion of no confidence will be moved at a later meeting against either Ronan or the Election. Aitken-Radburn told Honi “the executive will have to think about [any no confidence motion] in the coming days”.

Further controversy was raised before the start of the meeting, when allegations of cultural insensitivity were levelled against Aitken-Radburn (see here). When contacted for comment on the letter, Aitken–Radburn directed Honi to a post she made in the Wom*ns collective Facebook Group in April (see article) and said she was “regretful and constantly learning”.

The other positions elected were Edward McMahon to Honorary Treasurer and Shannen Potter to Honorary Secretary of the USU.

As for portfolios, Tiff Alexander was elected Wom*n’s Portfolio Director, Jack Whitney was awarded the Queer Portfolio, Marco Avena received the Environment Portfolio and Atia Rahim is the Ethno-Cultural Portfolio director. Tiff Alexander was elected the Finance Committee Deputy Chair and Michael Rees is the Student Publications Director and has been appointed to Electoral Committee.

Here’s how things the vote for Vice-President went awry: