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What is the SRC election, and why should I vote?

Honi breaks it down for anyone who might be confused by the Facebook invitations and incoming coloured shirts.

What is the SRC? 

The SRC is the Students’ Representative Council at the University of Sydney. You don’t have to sign up to be a member and access its services — all undergraduate students are members. The SRC offers a range of services which support students in ways that the University doesn’t, such as a free casework service to assist students with a range of issues like academic appeals, Centrelink issues, and tenancy advice. They also offer a free legal service for all undergrads. Aside from service provision, the SRC is the only organisation committed to advocating on behalf of undergrad students, without being influenced by management. This means sitting on important committees, like the Academic Board, and pushing for changes such as 5 day simple extensions. This is also the wing that the SRC’s Collectives come under, which are a bit like clubs or societies, but are groups committed to campaigning on particular issues like the environment or queer liberation. All undergrad students can join the collectives.

The SRC’s most important service is printing, funding, providing an office for and paying the editors of Honi Soit.

What makes the SRC unique is that as well as having permanent professional staff members, it is managed by students. To ensure that the advocacy and services are also up to date with student needs, the student reps are voted on every year.

Why should I bother voting in SRC Elections?

It’s easy to dismiss the SRC elections as a personality contest, but choosing who represents you in the day-to-day functions of the SRC is important. This year, the President and Honi editors will be elected unopposed. This means you’ll only be voting on Representatives to Council, and delegates to the National Union of Students.

While all undergraduate students can submit motions (proposed SRC policies) for the Council to vote on, only the students who are elected as Representatives to Council have the opportunity to vote on whether those motions carry. Motions can decide on the campaigns the SRC will run, where funds are allocated within the organisation, and the direction the SRC takes in approaching Uni policy. Most Councillors vote en-bloc in factional groupings, so the more Councillors a faction gets elected, the more powerful each of those Councillors becomes. 

The National Union of Students is the “SRC of SRCs”, and represents all Australian undergrad students. It operates similarly to the SRC, but as more of an advocacy body than a service-providing one. Accredited SRCs pay a fee — much like a union due — to the NUS, and in return they get to send voting delegates to represent their uni to the NUS National Conference (NatCon). NatCon, in keeping with the SRC-but-bigger theme, operates like a week-long SRC meeting, and delegates vote on the policy of the NUS for the year to come. USyd gets to elect 7 delegates, and you’ll vote on who they are at the same time as you vote in the SRC election.

How does voting work?

All undergraduate students of the University of Sydney (including non-degree students) who are currently enrolled are eligible to vote.

Voting will take place on campus on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of September. If you won’t be on campus on those days, you can find out how to submit an absentee ballot at Applications for absentee ballots will be accepted until 3pm on the 19th of September, 2022.

When you go to the polling booth, you will get two ballots: one for Representatives to Council, and one for NUS. Both of these ballots will be optional preferential.

What is optional preferential voting?

Similar to voting for the Senate in a federal election, there will be tickets with multiple people on them. You can choose to vote above the line, which means you vote for the ticket as a whole. In this process, your vote is given to the person on the top of a ticket, followed by other candidates on that ticket, as well as other tickets you select as your preferences thereafter. Alternatively, you can vote “below the line”, meaning you select candidates who are anywhere on the ticket in the order you please.

In using the Senate comparison, this effectively means the difference between voting for a faction (or party) as a whole, or for an individual. 

All preferencing is optional, so you can vote for as many or as few candidates as you’d like, as long as you vote for at least one. In order to make the most out of your ballot, Honi recommends that you provide preferences, so that your vote has an impact in the event that your first choice gets eliminated.

How are votes calculated?

The elections for Delegates to NUS and Representatives to Council are “multi member ballots”, meaning multiple people from the ballot are to be elected, rather than just one. This is because there are multiple Councillor and delegate positions available, rather than a Presidential election, where only one candidate is to win. 

In these elections, candidates are elected not when they reach a majority but when they reach a ‘quota.’ The number of votes it takes to reach an electable quota is calculated as: 

Total Number of Votes ÷ Candidates to be elected + 1 (rounded down) + 1

As an example, last year’s Council election saw 5103 votes cast. Applying that to this year’s 41 positions available, quota would be 126 votes.

How are preferences counted?

Candidates who achieve a quota (or “break quota”, in stupol terms”) pass on their surplus votes to other candidates, according to the next preference indicated by voters on the ballot paper. This process continues until all available positions are filled.  

A ‘transfer value’ of that candidate’s votes, or how much the votes are worth when they get passed on in preferential flow, is calculated as:

Surplus number of votes after quota ÷ Total number of votes received by candidate

When a candidate reaches quota, their votes will be transferred to the next person according to your preferences on your ballot. This means that your vote always goes to candidates for whom you indicated your support. 

When a candidate is eliminated, their next preference votes are transferred at a whole value, meaning no formula is involved.

Key rules for voters and campaigners:

This is not a complete list of the University of Sydney SRC regulations relating to elections, rather one deemed by the editors of Honi Soit to be relevant. Many of the rules outlined below are summarised phrases of more extended clauses. The entire governing document of the SRC and its elections can be found at

Only electors can vote and campaign. Electors are currently enrolled undergraduate USyd students.

A person must not, in relation to an election, communicate to another person anything that: is untrue; or is, or is likely to be, misleading or deceptive; or seriously harms the reputation of a member of the student body, or a member of the SRC staff.

It is a defence if the person proves that they had reasonable grounds for believing and did in fact believe the communication they made was true.

A person must not engage in behaviour that is discriminatory on any basis, including, but not limited to, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, disability or religion.

A person must not engage in any dishonest practice in relation to an election, including, but not limited to: bribery, threats, impersonating an electoral official or another person, forgery, or tampering with ballot papers.

A person must not come into physical contact with any other person, unless that contact is consensual. A person must not act towards any other person in a way which actually causes them to feel intimidated. It is a defence if a person proves the actions which caused another person to feel intimidated were: directed towards a candidate or campaigner, done for the purpose of campaigning, and the person has not previously been warned by an electoral official not to do similar acts towards the candidate or campaigner.

A person must not physically campaign before the commencement of the physical campaigning period.

A person must not campaign online before the commencement of the online campaigning period.

A person must not publish any authorisable material, within the meaning of section 43(a) of the regulations and unless exempted by section 44, without legibly displaying on the material the name and student identification number of the person authorising it.

A person must not campaign in a language other than English (LOTE). A person must not produce materials in LOTE, unless any words or sentences in the LOTE are accompanied by an English translation which is: accurate, legible when viewed from the distance at which a reasonable elector would view the material, and displayed in such a way that it is reasonably obvious the English text is a translation of text in the LOTE.

Candidates and tickets belonging to the same brand must not, together, cover more

than 25 per cent of any notice board with their election material. A person must not remove, cover, destroy, damage or otherwise interfere with election material of a candidate, ticket or brand where it has been placed in accordance with the Regulations and University rules.

A person must not campaign, or store, or leave unattended, or make visible any election material, in: any University library, with the exception that t-shirts and other campaign markings may be openly worn, or the premises of the SRC.

A person must not use any SRC resources in the production of election material for a candidate, ticket or brand. A person may not use SRC premises as a location for producing election material or conducting any work in relation to the running of campaigns.

The expenditure limit for the ballot for the Representatives to Council is: where a ticket contains three or fewer candidates – $100 per candidate, or where a ticket contains four or more candidates – $400 for the entire ticket. The expenditure limit for the ballot for NUS Delegates is $100 per ticket.

The Electoral Officer may investigate whether a person has breached the Regulations if they believe on reasonable grounds that that person has breached the Regulations, or if an elector complains, in writing, that that person has breached the Regulations. The complaint must be lodged no later than 72 hours after the Declaration of Provisional Results, and must not be so unreasonable that no prospects of a breach of a Regulation will be uncovered.

If the Electoral Officer puts written questions to a person in relation to a suspected breach of Regulations, the person has 48 hours to respond from the time of receiving the questions.

Any elector may appeal any decision made by the Electoral Officer. All appeals must be lodged within 72 hours of the Electoral Officer’s decision.

Any member of the student body may in writing ask the Electoral Officer for a recount up to 48 hours after the completion of the counting of the votes and not thereafter. The petition setting out the grounds for a recount must include allegations of specific error or wrongdoing. 

Disclaimer: Editor Zara Zadro is a member of campus faction Switch and is not involved in Honi’s SRC election coverage.