The councillors of the 93rd SRC Council, as well as delegates to the National Union of Students for 2021, have been announced, nearly a week after the closing of polls.
Voter turnout was considerably lower than last year, with a total of 3303 ballots for Council. Although 13% of undergraduate students were registered to vote, only 9% cast their votes. This is the lowest turnout in five years, beating out the similarly low turnout in 2015 by 90 votes.
Low turnout may have been the result of the fact that there were no concurrent elections for SRC President or editors of Honi Soit, after candidates were automatically elected following uncontested nominations. This is the first time in at least five decades that the SRC President position has been uncontested.
It may also be a result of an unprecedented online election, a significant shift away from previous elections which see heavy in-person campaigning and “walk and talks” throughout campus.
Grassroots and Switch (Switchroots) collectively saw the highest number of councillors elected (11), once again putting international student faction Penta (Panda) in second (6) by a slightly higher margin than last year.
A number of newly formed factions have also performed well. Engineers for SRC, the only discipline-oriented faction, saw three of its members elected to council. Phoenix, a new international student faction headed by current Honi Soit editor Iris Yao, saw three candidates elected.
This result surpassed that of well-established factions such as National Labor Students (Labor Left), who saw two of its councillors elected, with one having run on the joke ticket “Divorced Dads for SRC”. Similarly, Left Action (Socialist Alternative) only elected one councillor.
This year’s results have also solidified Labor’s decline in SRC elections. This is the second year in a row that neither Unity (Labor Right) or NLS has fielded a presidential candidate, and neither faction has seen a successful presidential candidate elected since 2016. Labor factions previously held the presidency for 14 years through the 2000s and 2010s.
In 2016, Unity and NLS, along with NLS offshoot Sydney Labor Students (which now no longer competes in SRC elections), controlled more than half of council seats. This year, Labor factions control only 17% of seats.
It appears Grassroots will easily command a majority of councillors at this year’s RepsElect — an infamously heated event late in the semester where the SRC’s office bearers are elected. Grassroots’ presidential candidate, Swapnik Sanagavarapu, was backed by a coalition of factions, including Panda, NLS and Phoenix, who will likely receive paid positions in exchange for their support.
That means the factions will be able to divide up all of the paid roles and half of the unpaid roles to their members. If the coalition is able to garner the support of Unity, or new independent groupings, they may be able to form a “supermajority” and lock out Liberals from positions for a second year in a row.
Switchroots’ success continued in the election of NUS delegates, with outgoing SRC President Liam Donohoe ranking first with a total of 539 votes.
The election has been characterised by a number of setbacks and technical difficulties, arising from the unprecedented online voting system.
Last week’s disastrous launch of the digital voting platform saw blank emails sent out to students that did not contain a link to vote – a mistake that was not rectified for over 24 hours. The mishap led to an extension of the voting period to 6pm last Saturday (3 October).
Moreover, the aforementioned disparity in registered voters and votes cast raises concerns over whether or not the technical difficulties have disenfranchised students from participating in the election.
Finally, election results are typically announced by the Returning Officer within two days of the close of polling, even with the scrutineering procedures required of in-person elections. Despite the fact that the digital voting platform should have accelerated the process significantly, the results have taken almost a full week to be released.
Full results can be found here.
Editor Lei Yao was not involved in the coverage of the SRC and NUS elections.