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Armstrong vote restarted after flaws revealed

Written by News, On Campus

The initial vote to rename the Armstrong Building has been discarded. A new poll has been created after technical issues were identified by the outgoing Chair of Student Council.

The initial vote, hosted on the NUSU website but ran through Jotform, failed to track IP addresses. As a result, voting more than once on the same computer was possible if cookies were not logged. The link to the vote has since been reissued; votes cast before the reissue are void, and crucially are not being counted. The vote will now close at 11.59pm on Sunday 21 June.

Students could initially vote as many times as they wanted

The outgoing Chair of Student Council, Stephen Dawes, said that the previous vote “used a private polling website”. The website “only checks the cookies of individuals against those that have already voted”. Students are then able to manipulate this to “effectively vote infinite times”. Dawes added “this vote seems to violate absolutely loads of [the Newcastle University Students’ Union’s] own constitutional rules. They’ve gone to great lengths to avoid calling this a referendum so they don’t have to follow the rules around such votes”.

The vote is exempt from constitutional rules on referendums

In technical terms, the vote to rename the Armstrong Building is a non-binding poll, not a referendum. As such, the University is under no obligation to enact change based on the vote. The other major implication is that the vote is exempt from the rules that apply to holding referendums, as outlined in the NUSU constitution.

Most notably, the constitution stipulates that both a ‘Senior and Junior Returning Officer’ oversee all ballots and referendums, but not polls such as this one. Other constitutional requirements for referendums that were not met or needed for this poll include giving 10 days’ notice before voting opens. The poll was also not called following a petition or following authorisation by particular branches of the University, which is required for a referendum.

The outgoing Welfare and Equality Officer – Sara Elkhawad – said the issue with the initial vote lay with the marketing department at the SU. The outgoing President of the Students’ Union – Katie Smyth – did not respond when approached for comment.

The link to the reissued vote can be found here.

Last modified: 19th June 2020

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