Loophole allowed former students to vote for favoured candidates
Students’ Union confirms that numerous votes had to be struck from system
Gair Rhydd can exclusively reveal that in this year’s student elections, non-students were able to vote. Further, we can confirm that this is not the first time this has been the case; sources report that the vulnerability in the voting system that allowed graduates to has persisted in at least one previous vote organised by the Cardiff Students’ Union.
Students’ Union representatives have since confirmed these claims.
This publication received an anonymous tip at approximately 12pm on February 27th that previous students were able to vote in the 2015 Cardiff University Students’ Union elections.
Gair Rhydd verified this claim, instructing previous students to attempt to log in to cardiffstudents.com and attempt to cast votes. It was established that it was indeed possible to vote, provided voters had a username and password from the university. If your password had expired since graduation, then it could be reset through the university website SIMS.
One individual successfully voted to re-open nominations (R.O.N) for all positions, while others simply confirmed that it was possible to login and fill out voting forms. The students union confirmed that they had “identified a number of individuals [who] were able to vote” that were ineligible to do so.
As those who assisted our investigation only successfully submitted one vote, the fact that there were multiple votes on the system is proof that not only were non-students able to influence the results, but that former students independent of this newspaper and the university had actively attempted to prejudice the results before the Students’ Union had completed its investigation.
James Clarke and Tom Tollefsen, who were both candidates in this election, spoke to Gair Rhydd shortly after the initial findings of the investigation were published.
Tollefsen said that he believed that the ability for non-students to vote presented some candidates with a “massively unfair advantage”, particularly those that had enjoyed long academic careers at the university, as they were likely to know a large number of former students.
Clarke concurred, and added that once candidates became aware of this flaw, “everybody started making calls.”
When the union made contact with candidates informing them that non-student votes would not be counted, a Gair Rhydd reporter overheard one sabbatical officer candidate saying to a member of their campaign team that they needed to “call off the army,” referring to previous students they had enlisted to vote for them.
In response to these findings, a Students’ Union representative released the following statement: ‘On Friday 27th February, we received reports that there were instances of non-students being able to vote in the Students’ Union elections.
In investigating this issue, we identified that a number of individuals were able to vote who were not eligible to. This stems from a change in the way the Students’ Union authenticated data from the University which was changed on 18th August 2014.’
‘During this election we have been able to identify and confirm the student status of all ballots cast, and have removed 9 votes cast by non-students. As a result, we and our Returning Officer are confident in the integrity of the election and the count process will proceed shortly.’
‘This issue may have had an impact upon elections held by the Students’ Union since this date, including the By-Elections of October 2014. We will continue to investigate this issue with regard to By-Elections.’
Since the change that is believed to have caused this problem was implemented on 18th August 2014, there are no plans to investigate elections results from before this date.
But our findings have cast significant doubt on previous election results – some of which were decided by razor-thin margins. A recent example was the election of Elliot Howells as VP Societies and Campaigns by a 15-vote margin two years ago.
Gair Rhydd comment editor Gareth Evans said of the revelations: “I’m finding it hard to believe this or something similar hasn’t happened before. It seems likely to me that people simply didn’t know about loopholes like this.”
While there is no evidence that problems of this nature have affected the results of previous elections, there was also very little media attention given to the elections in previous years. Historically, our journalistic activity was almost entirely limited to post-election commentary.
Commenting on our investigation, Sophie Davis, chair of the Student Publication Association, said: “This has highlighted a clear need for strong, independent student publications.”
“Situations like this could be better prevented by Students’ Unions embracing journalistic freedoms and committing themselves to a free press. I believe this can, and should, be achieved.”