Six new Sabbatical Officers and four Part Time Officers were elected on Friday in an election week characterised by candidate withdrawal and poor engagement.
19,692 votes were cast as Raff Marioni, Jonny Hall, Jack Green, Sophie McDermott, Maggie Elstob and Louise Hall are the new the six Sabbatical Officer candidates chosen by the student body to lead Newcastle University Students’ Union. They will be joined by new Part Time Officers Adam Warner, Lauren Sykes, Charlotte Boulton, and Jamie Cameron for the 2018/19 academic year.
Only 3387 students voted in this year’s Newcastle University Students’ Union elections, 2052 down on last year, as the overall turnout proportion dropped from 23% to 13%. It’s the lowest turnout NUSU has seen since 2012 in terms of the number of individual voters, and the lowest since in terms of overall turnout proportion since records began.
The huge drop in voter turnout has been attributed to the strike action and adverse weather conditions leading to fewer students on campus during campaigns week. Moreover, the lack of November by-elections and NUS delegate elections probably would account for a 9% fall in turnout.
Interestingly, for the first time in recent history, candidates have dropped out of the running for NUSU roles during the election week itself. On Monday, Errol Kerr and Lucy Butterworth, respectively standing for Activities Officer and Welfare and Equality Officer, both withdrew from the process, followed by Presidential candidate Chris Murray the next day.
Whilst all three of those contenders were present for the Newcastle Student Radio debates the preceding week, three other students listed on the initial candidate list opted out of the process before the election week started. Even at the close of nominations, there were only 25 nominations, compared to 35 the year before, and 26 and 47 in 2016 and 2015 respectively.
“The standout voting figure from the whole election cycle has got to be the 13% turnout which the incoming team have got to address”
Harry Parsons, Deputy Station Manager of NSR
Though it started out with four candidates, the race for President of the Students’ Union ended up being a head-to-head between Holly Waddell, current President of the Working Class Students’ Network, and Raff Marioni, co-founder of Hardly Athletic FC. The voting figures were relatively tight, as Marioni was elected President with 1050 compared to Waddell’s 850.
Marioni exclaimed: “Blimey! I’ve got to say a massive thank you to everyone who voted and the candidates who ran against me…you’re all brilliant people. Thanks to the dance society, my rugby league boys, Bayswater boys… Everyone who helped me out! That’s all I got.”
The other two-horse race in the elections was also the first Sabbatical Officer result to be announced on the night, the Activities Officer. Following Kerr’s withdrawal, the position was to be filled by either Sophie McDermott or Josh Cook. Though both candidates performed well, McDermott was the clear choice of the electorate, racking up 1382 votes, 536 more than Cook’s 846 votes.
Joining McDermott in the Activities Centre will be Maggie Elstob, after her 1096 votes sealed her position as the 2018/19 Athletic Union Officer. Elstob recorded 998 votes in the first round of voting, with Zach Thomas, Max Sharp and James Anthoney falling well short of the number of votes that Elstob accumulated.
After cracking a joke on stage, McDermott added: “Oh amazing! I’d like to say I could not have done this without the amazing people over there, in particular one person… Xanthe”
Elstob was emotional when she took to the stage to address the room: “I don’t wanna cry! I wanna say thank you to the other candidates, and a massive thank you to my campaign team!“
The final female member of the 2018/19 Sabbatical Officer team is Louise Hall, who will take over the role as Editor of the Courier. Hall beat Dan Haygarth, Mark Sleightholm and Jaymelouise Hudspith to the position, notching up 849 votes in the final stage to Haygarth’s 741.
3387 individual voters in this year’s election week, 2052 less than in 2017
After winning the close-run race, Hall was shocked to have come out on top: “I’m so overwhelmed; I really, really did not think I was going to win tonight. A huge thank you to my campaign team and everyone who supported me this week, even for a vote. I can’t believe it! I’m so grateful”
Four different candidates were also pitched against each other for the position of Education Officer, with Jonny Hall being elected to succeed Rowan South. Of the 1752 votes cast for Education Officer, Hall recorded 823. Gillian Salmon was knocked out in the second stage of voting, with Hall gaining the necessary number of votes in the reallocation to achieve an unassailable lead ahead of Sam Cooke and Emma Dawson.
When elected, Hall stated: “I’m so speechless right now…I’ve been sitting there in silence waiting for this. Big thank you to my campaign team. Sam Midwood for editing and filming my video, absolute hero! My family for baking flapjacks and cookies… and finally my girlfriend Sarah!”
Hall’s co-president of RAG Society, Jack Green, was elected in similar circumstances for the role of Welfare and Equality Officer. After the votes for reopen nominations were transferred, Green’s 855 votes gave him a majority over Zoë Godden nor Sneha Vincet, whose respective totals of 545 and 296 votes were not enough to force a second stage of voting.
Green said: “Ah I can’t believe it! Thanks so much to my campaign team…and Zoe and Sneha. It’s been an incredible week, awful and great! Thanks to Saz for letting me in her office when I was stressed.”
The only contested Part Time Officer position was that of Chair of Council, as Ze Wang, Adam Warner and Haaris Qureshi all competed for the coveted role. Even though it is a PTO role, the Chair election had plenty of coverage, leading to a total of 1579 votes. Though it had the highest number of R.O.N. votes (85) among the contested positions, the candidates still acquired a high number of votes. After Ze Wang’s votes were redistributed, Warner pipped Qureshi to the role by just 28 votes, recording 700 votes compared to Qureshi’s 672.
Following his win in the closest contest of the election period, Warner stated: “Thank you for everyone who voted for me, and yes I’m very much excited for next year. There’s a few ideas I’m really looking forward to getting into: increase voting places, trying to get more and different people turning up to student council and make it work better for everybody.
Joining Warner in the PTO team were three individuals that won their respective elections without opposition. Lauren Sykes, Charlotte Boulton and Jamie Cameron were in turn elected LGBT+ Officer, Marginalised Genders Officer, and Scrutiny Officer, gaining 1147, 1164 and 1201 votes respectively.
Reflecting on the campaign, Deputy Station Manager of NSR and co-ordinator of the pre-election debates said: “The election campaign saw candidates come under more scrutiny than they have in years. Footfall on campus was low and social media campaigning was key. The standout voting figure from the whole election cycle has got to be the 13% turnout which the incoming team have got to address.”