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Elections policy

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Section 1 - Preamble

(1) This Policy is effective from 5 August 2021.

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Section 2 - Purpose

(2) This Policy explains how the University conducts elections and sets down rules for proper conduct in campaigning.

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Section 3 - Scope

(3) This Policy applies throughout the University to elections among staff and students to University bodies, including but not limited to the University Council, Academic Board, Faculty Boards and the UniSuper Consultative Committee. It does not apply to elections for the Deakin University Student Association (DUSA) which has its own election procedure.

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Section 4 - Policy

(4) The University conducts elections with fairness and integrity and in accordance with the Code for Upholding Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom and the University’s values of being ethical and inclusive. High levels of participation and good election practices support the University’s inclusive culture and objective for diversity of membership on University bodies.

(5) Returning Officers are responsible for the conduct of elections for specified University bodies as follows:

  1. University Council and UniSuper Consultative Committee – Council Secretary
  2. Academic Board – Secretary Academic Board
  3. Faculty Boards – Secretary of the relevant Faculty Board

    and cannot be a candidate in the relevant election.

(6) The Vice-Chancellor or delegate will appoint Returning Officers to other boards and committees of other University bodies as the University may from time to time establish.

(7) Returning Officers may appoint members of staff to act as Deputy Returning Officers.

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Section 5 - Procedure

Returning Officers

(8) Returning Officers are responsible for:

  1. conducting elections with fairness and integrity in accordance with this Policy and with the guidance of the University’s Election Manual
  2. addressing any complaints about the election in accordance with clauses 50 to 56 of this Policy
  3. reporting on election outcomes in accordance with clauses 41 and 42
  4. recommending to University bodies and the implementation officer any improvements to election arrangements or to this Policy.

Notice of election

(9) When an election is to be held the Returning Officer must inform the relevant electorate by:

  1. publishing a Notice on relevant University elections websites
  2. issuing a notification that the Notice has been published and calling for nominations from the relevant electorate
  3. publicising the election in such other places as the Returning Officer considers appropriate.

(10) The Notice of election referred to at clause 9a must:

  1. announce that an election is to be held for positions on the University body concerned
  2. provide contact details for the Returning Officer
  3. specify the terms of office of the position or positions
  4. specify the eligibility criteria for candidature and voting in accordance with relevant University regulations and this Policy
  5. specify the process and format for lodging a nomination, including:
    1. the requirements and the word limit for candidate statements
    2. any requirement for nominations to be supported by one or more eligible voters
  6. specify the period of time during which nominations must be lodged, which will be at least 10 working days.
  7. communicate as far as is practical the process for determining the outcome of the poll
  8. advise how candidate statements will be made available to voters
  9. communicate the terms of reference of the University body at the date of the notice.

Nominations

(11) Elections will be conducted on the basis of candidates nominating themselves except for University Council elections where the Returning Officer may specify that nominations must be endorsed by one or more eligible voters.

(12) Nominations which do not conform to the specified format or which are incomplete will not be accepted and the nominee will not be accepted as a candidate in the election. Where practicable the Returning Officer will advise nominees to provide any missing information prior to the close of nominations.

(13) If the nominee is an eligible nominee the Returning Officer will advise the person that they are accepted as a candidate in the election as soon as practicable and no later than five working days after the close of nominations.

(14) If the nominee is not an eligible nominee the Returning Officer will advise the person in writing of the reason for their ineligibility. Where practicable, the Returning Officer will provide this advice before the close of nominations so that, where there are applicable circumstances, the person has the opportunity to make an eligible nomination.

(15) A nominee or candidate may withdraw their nomination up to the declaration of the result of the election.

Candidate statements

(16) A candidate must provide a statement in support of their candidacy for publication on elections websites up to a word limit specified in the Notice of election. The Returning Officer may also invite candidates to submit photographs for a specific election provided that the same opportunity to provide a photograph is provided to all candidates in the election.

(17) Candidates are free to express their views in their statements, whether about the University or other issues.

(18) Consistent with the Code for Upholding Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom, if, in the reasonable opinion of the Returning Officer, a candidate’s statement contains content which is subject to the restraints or burdens set out in clause 15 of the Code for Upholding Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom, the Returning Officer may:

  1. request a candidate to amend their statement for reasons set out in writing
  2. withhold that content from publication if the candidate refuses to amend the statement.

(19) For clarity it is noted that clause 18 will be implemented consistent with the University’s commitments to freedom of speech and to the reasonable and proportionate regulation of conduct to enable the University to fulfil its duty to foster the wellbeing of students and staff.

(20) The Returning Officer may request a candidate to amend their statement if in excess of the word limit specified in the Notice of election and may edit or withhold that content from publication if the candidate does not amend the statement within a timely manner.

Declarations of nominations and Notice of poll

(21) Within five working days of the end of the nominations period, the Returning Officer must publish a list of eligible nominations on elections websites.

(22) Where the number of eligible nominations received is fewer or equal to the number of vacancies the Returning Officer must:

  1. declare the nominated candidate or candidates elected
  2. deal with any unfilled positions in accordance with clause 43.

(23) Where the number of nominations in any category exceeds the number of vacancies, the election will proceed to poll and the Returning Officer must inform the relevant electorate by:

  1. publishing a Declaration of nominations and notice of poll on elections websites
  2. issuing a notification to the relevant electorate advising that a poll will be conducted
  3. publicising the poll in such other places as the Returning Officer considers appropriate.

(24) The Declaration of nominations and notice of poll referred to at clause 23a must include:

  1. the dates during which the poll will be open, which must be for at least five working days
  2. the names of the candidates and links to their candidate statements
  3. instructions to eligible voters about voting.

Eligible voters and nominees

(25) The Returning Officer must publish the eligibility criteria for nomination and voting in the Notice of election.

(26) Where no relevant eligibility criteria is set out in any relevant regulation, the following applies along with any criteria set out in the Notice of election:

  1. Staff eligibility – staff members will be eligible to vote and to nominate as candidates if on the date that eligibility lists are created, and no more than one month prior to the date the Notice of election is published they hold appointments of 12 months or more at 0.5 time fraction or more, including holding several positions which together amount to 0.5 time fraction or more
  2. Student eligibility – students will be eligible to vote and to nominate as candidates if on the date that eligibility lists are created, and no more than one month prior to the date the Notice of election is published, they are enrolled in a course in the academic year in which the election is held, including students with enrolled but inactive status, but not including students:
    1. who are full-time employees of the University
    2. who have intermitted their studies unless intermitted under Council Regulations regulation 9.4
    3. who have withdrawn from the course enrolment which would otherwise have entitled them to vote or nominate
    4. who have completed the requirements of the course enrolment which would otherwise have entitled them to vote or nominate
    5. enrolled in non-award units or courses
    6. from other universities undertaking a study abroad, exchange program or cross-institutional units at Deakin University
    7. of the Deakin University English Language Institute unless also enrolled at Deakin University.
Where applicable, students will be classified as undergraduate, postgraduate coursework or higher degree by research students and students in combined courses will be eligible in each Faculty offering the course.

(27) The Returning Officer is responsible for advising the eligibility criteria for an election and requesting the relevant electorate list from the Human Resources Division for staff elections and the Division of Student Administration for student elections.

(28) The Human Resources Division and Division of Student Administration are responsible for providing to Returning Officers or their nominee complete and accurate electorate lists of staff and students respectively.

Campaigning

(29) The Returning Officer will make all candidate statements available to the electorate by:

  1. publishing the candidate statements on the relevant election website from the date of declaration of nominations until the close of voting
  2. providing links to the candidate statements in notifications to all voters when voting opens.

(30) Candidates and their supporters may conduct campaigning activities consistent with the University’s Code for Upholding Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom.

(31) Candidates and their supporters are free to express their opinions and promote their election platforms but must not:

  1. engage in any form of harassment or intimidation
  2. disrupt classes or study areas with campaigning
  3. issue any form of enticement to voters
  4. interfere with voters casting their vote by overseeing their use of the e-election system
  5. make inappropriate use of a University email distribution group (mailing list) by sending bulk emails to all students and/or staff of the University, a Faculty, a School or electorate list. Candidates may email their normal networks, groups, clubs and associations, in accordance with the rules of those bodies.

(32) Allegations that a candidate or their supporters have engaged in improper campaigning will be investigated in accordance with the complaints process set out at clauses 50 to 57.

Casting of votes

(33) Voters cast votes through the University’s e-election system using the optional preferential system.

(34) An eligible voter may vote once only in any poll and must not vote on behalf of another voter or allow another voter to vote on their behalf or vote after the time fixed for the closing of voting.

(35) Voting is conducted confidentially and the identity of individual voters and the casting of their votes will remain confidential.

Counting of votes

(36) The Returning Officer must oversee the counting of votes, which must occur within five working days of the close of the poll.

(37) Votes are counted using University approved vote counting software using the optional preferential system (Scottish Single Transferrable Vote system).

(38) If, following the distribution of all preferences, remaining candidates have any equal number of votes, the Returning Officer will determine the wining candidate by a random selection process which favours no particular candidate.

(39) The Returning Officer will inform each candidate of the result of the poll.

(40) If requested by a candidate the Returning Officer will advise that candidate of:

  1. the number of votes cast in the poll
  2. the number of votes obtained by the winning candidate
  3. the number of votes obtained by the candidate requesting the information and that candidate’s position in the poll, e.g. 2nd most votes, 3rd most votes and so on.

Declaration of poll

(41) The Returning Officer must publish a declaration of poll stating the name/s of the successful candidates within two working days after the counting of the votes.

(42) The Returning Officer may publish statistics relevant to the outcome of the election on election websites, for example number of votes cast, proportion of the electorate who voted, number of votes obtained by high ranked candidates. The publication of election statistics is consistent with Deakin’s commitment to transparency and can be especially useful in elections with large electorates and a large number of candidates.

Unfilled positions and co-opted members

(43) Where there are insufficient candidates to fill the available positions the Returning Officer may extend the nomination period, make a second call for nominations or, where authorised, fill the position by co-option in accordance with clause 45.

Diversity in membership on University bodies

(44) The University is committed to diversity of membership on University bodies reflecting the diversity of the University community.

(45) Consistent with this commitment:

  1. this Policy supports a high level of awareness about and involvement in elections across the University
  2. University bodies are encouraged to consider co-opting members to increase diversity of membership
  3. Faculty Boards can co-opt members to improve the gender balance or diversity or to provide additional expertise relevant to the needs of the Faculty.

Appointments to fill vacancies

(46) A position on a University body will become vacant if:

  1. the elected Member’s term expires; or
  2. the Member resigns in writing;
  3. the Member ceases to:
    1. hold the office, position or qualification; or
    2. be enrolled in a course;

      which entitled them to be elected;
  4. the Member dies or otherwise becomes unable to act; or
  5. the Member becomes entitled to be an official Member of that University body, in which case the Member shall be deemed an official Member resulting in the vacation of that Member's former place.

(47) In the event that a person elected to an office declines or becomes disqualified from taking up or holding the office through a conflict of interest or other reason, the Returning Officer may offer the office to the next highest ranked candidate in the Election until a candidate accepts the position, provided that no more than three months have elapsed since the declaration of poll.

(48) Where an elected position falls vacant before the expiry of the term, the Returning Officer will conduct a fresh Election in accordance with this Policy and consistent with the schedule of elections published on election websites, unless the vacancy:

  1. occurs less than three months after the declaration of poll for the original Election and the Returning Officer can fill the vacancy by offering the position for the balance of the term to the next highest ranked candidate in the Election until a candidate accepts the position;
  2. has a duration of less than 12 months, in which case the University body may fill that vacancy by the co-option of a person of as nearly like qualification as practicable.

(49) A person who fills a vacancy will remain a Member of the University body for the remainder of the term of the Member in respect of whom the vacancy arose.

Complaints about the conduct of elections

(50) Complaints about breaches of Council Regulations or Academic Board Regulations elections provisions or this Policy should be lodged with the Returning Officer as soon as possible following the event occasioning the complaint.

(51) In considering a complaint the Returning Officer must make a decision based on sound reasoning and relevant evidence and within a timeframe that is reasonable in the circumstances. The Returning Officer has the following powers for addressing complaints:

  1. to investigate the complaint and make the inquiries that they consider warranted in the circumstances
  2. to convene an ad hoc committee to consider the outcomes of an investigation where they consider this is warranted by the circumstances
  3. to dismiss the complaint and provide reasons for the dismissal
  4. to uphold the complaint and take one or more of the following actions, depending on the circumstances:
    1. issue a formal warning to a candidate or a candidate's supporters
    2. place restrictions on campaigning
    3. disqualify a candidate from the election and convey that decision to the candidate in writing, including reasons
    4. void an election or an election result where the conduct of the election or election campaign has lacked fairness or integrity.

(52) Where the Returning Officer disqualifies a candidate or candidates, the Returning Officer must decide whether to:

  1. declare the election invalid; or
  2. continue with the election where satisfied that it is fair and reasonable to do so.

(53) Before reaching a determination in accordance with clause 51d(iv) or clause 52 the Returning Officer must:

  1. take into account the inconvenience to the electorate and other candidates which would be caused if the election is declared invalid
  2. obtain approval for the proposed course of action from the relevant nominee of the Vice-Chancellor as set out at clause 56.

(54) A declaration to invalidate an election must:

  1. be in writing and communicated to all candidates and the electorate
  2. provide reasons for the declaration
  3. provide advice on the arrangements for the election to be conducted afresh.

(55) A decision of the Returning Officer arising from the investigation of a complaint is final. This does not preclude action under:

  1. the Codes of Conduct for Staff and Students
  2. the Student Complaints Resolution policy and Student Complaints Resolution procedure
  3. the Deakin University Enterprise Agreement 2017.

(56) If a Returning Officer is the subject of a complaint, the complaint will be escalated to the following nominees of the Vice-Chancellor:

  1. the General Counsel where the Returning Officer is the Council Secretary
  2. the Returning Officer’s supervisor in all other circumstances.

Procedural irregularities and adjustments for technical issues

(57) In the event of a procedural irregularity the Returning Officer must consider whether the result of the election would be affected and either:

  1. continue with the election if in the opinion of the Returning Officer it is fair and reasonable to do so; or
  2. declare the election invalid and follow the steps in clause 54.

(58) In the event of a technical failure the Returning Officer may make reasonable adjustments to accommodate the failure, including but not limited to extending the closing time for nominations or voting. The application of reasonable adjustments does not affect the validity of an election.

Record keeping

(59) The Returning Officer must ensure that records are made and maintained on:

  1. the conduct of the election in accordance with this Policy; and
  2. the counting of votes and outcome of the election.
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Section 6 - Definitions

(60) For the purpose of this Policy:

  1. candidate: an eligible nominee standing for election
  2. election websites: Website as determined by the relevant University body and, if no such determination has been made, by the relevant Returning Officer.
  3. eligible nominee: a person who is eligible to be elected to a University body in a specific election in accordance with the composition applicable to the University body and as stated in the Notice of election
  4. eligible voter: a person who is entitled to vote in a specific election in accordance with the composition applicable to the University body and as stated in the Notice of election
  5. Member: a person who is elected or appointed to a University body or who is a member of that University body by reason of the office held
  6. Notice: the Notice of the election published by the Returning Officer
  7. optional preferential voting: a voting system under which voters may choose to mark a preference for one candidate, all candidates or any number of candidates in between
  8. University body: University Council, the Academic Board, Faculty Boards, Institute Boards and their committees, and such other boards and committees as the University may from time to time establish.