The Guardian November 22, 2000


Ballot fraud and sexual harassment

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has been asked to 
investigate claims of election fraud and serious sexual harassment 
surrounding the annual elections of the Macquarie University Students' 
Council.

Problems arose after it was discovered there was no full set of preference 
distribution forms and that a set of photocopies, destined to be used by 
the returning officer, had been altered after the close of polls.

(These forms indicate the allocation of preferences by candidates when 
students vote "above the line" for a group/ticket.)

A coalition of left-wing students are fighting to have an independent 
returning officer appointed to resolve the matter and complete the count.

This is the second election in two months, the first being voided by the 
Supreme Court of NSW when it was discovered the returning officer had 
failed to mail out ballot papers to external students.

The independence of the returning officer has become the central issue in 
this dispute.

Students claim that not only are the five returning officers and the 
electoral arbiter aligned to the ALP right-wing and Liberal Party coalition 
that currently controls the Students' Council, but they have been meeting 
with these people and helping to develop electoral strategy.

One member of staff has been suspended after locking up the ballot and 
asking the University Registrar to intervene and resolve the anomalies.

Sources claim the staff member is being used as a scapegoat by the 
University and the right.

It is further claimed that electoral anarchy has reigned since 1997 when 
the University Council unilaterally amended clauses in the Electoral 
Regulations without the consent or knowledge of the Students' Council.

In the four elections since these changes were imposed on the Students' 
Council, the Supreme Court has been involved in two ballots and an 
electoral arbiter has been appointed on three occasions.

In the 28 years prior to the changes there had never been any external 
legal action and an arbiter had been appointed on one occasion only.

Further details next week.

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