Ruling (2) of the Returning Officer
In relation to a complaint made by Adriana Mells (“the complainant”) against the More! ticket (“the respondent”), the Returning Officer rules as follows:
- The complainant alleges that a movie night held at the Student Village on Monday 29 August, at which two of the respondent’s candidates spoke and free pizza was served, amounted to an inducement contrary to Regulation 44.4, and that the behavior of the said candidates amounted to dishonest conduct in breach of various other Regulations.
- Prior to the event, a representative of the respondent discussed it at some length with the Returning Officer and Deputy Returning Officer, and gave undertakings that the event would not be branded as a ticket event and that the respondent would not be associated with the provision of the pizza. On that basis the Returning Officer cautiously agreed that the event could go ahead.
- The Returning Officer does not believe that the respondent set out deliberately to breach those undertakings, but he nonetheless feels that in the circumstances the rule against inducements was not adequately observed.
- It is important to realise that, apart from events sponsored by UMSU (or of course by the Returning Officer), there is no obligation on the organisers of campus events to be politically neutral. The fact that the respondent was given preferential treatment at the event is not of itself a problem; the problem arose from the fact that the respondent was associated with the provision of free food in a way that could be interpreted as an inducement.
- The fact that the event was a week before the start of the election reduces the seriousness of the breach, as does the fact that the complainant was given an opportunity to speak, albeit in circumstances that would have put her and her ticket at a disadvantage.
- Nonetheless, inducement is a sufficiently serious matter that the Returning Officer feels it is appropriate to impose a penalty. Martin Ditmann and Nicholas Lam are therefore banned from campaigning for the first two hours of polling on Tuesday, 6 September.
Ruling (1) of the Returning Officer
In response to a complaint received on Monday 15 August 2016 from Akira Boardman (“the Complainant”) against the “More!” ticket (“the Respondent”), the Returning Officer rules as follows:
- Regulation 21.7.1 provides that “Where a ticket name is proposed that is identical to or so similar to another proposed ticket name or names, as potentially to cause confusion amongst voters,” only the first such name to be registered will be approved, and any others will be offered the opportunity to choose a different name.
- The Complainant argues that her ticket, “Smore!”, having been registered first, the Respondent should be required to choose a different name.
- Clearly, potentiality to cause voter confusion is a matter of degree: virtually any similarity at all could conceivably confuse the mind of some voter. The test must be whether voter confusion is reasonably likely in the circumstances.
- The Returning Officer believes that in applying that test, the context of the election as a whole should be considered, including in this case the fact that one of the two tickets has a large number of candidates and is contesting most positions, while the other has only one candidate contesting only four positions.
- It is also relevant that no objection has been taken in the past to multiple tickets containing the word “more”. Last year, for example, saw both “More Activities!” and “More Beer!”; this year, in addition to the two tickets under consideration, both “More Beer” and “More Pokémon Go on Campus” have been registered. A further comparison would be with 2008, when the ticket names “No 2am Lockout!” and “Stop 2am Lockout, Stop Alcopops Tax” were held to be sufficiently distinct, even though both were feeder tickets.
- While in many cases a difference of only one letter in ticket names would of course be confusing, that is less likely to be the case when the initial letter is concerned: compare “Art” and “Bart”, for example. The Returning Officer believes that an educated electorate must be presumed to be able to see the difference in such cases.
- The complaint is therefore dismissed. However, both the Complainant’s ticket and the Respondent are warned against any deliberate copying of the style of the other in campaign material or any other behavior likely to induce voter confusion.
SELECTED RULINGS FROM PRIOR YEARS
Please note that we regard the following as standing rulings.
The previous rulings on the internet and social media have now been superseded by the new Regulations 28.9-28.12, which substantially codify the old rulings.
UMSU OFFICE SPACE – Ruling (4) of 2007:
The display of any campaign material for the current UMSU elections within the UMSU office-bearers space, including but not limited to the wearing of campaign T-shirts or badges by persons working in or frequenting that space (whether office-bearers or not, and whether on leave or not), is hereby prohibited, from today until the close of polling.
CAMERAS – Ruling (10) of 2007 (part):
(a) In the light of their extremely widespread use, and their usefulness in substantiating certain claims, it would be unreasonable to ban the use of cameras entirely.
(b) However, the Returning Officer is concerned at the potential that the use of cameras poses for harassment and intimidation, and calls for restraint in their use. All campaigners are urged to respect the privacy and personal space of others, and are directed not to take photographs in circumstances where that could reasonably be regarded as harassment in breach of Regulation 44.5.26 or in breach of Union or University rules and procedures relating to harassment.
POSTERS ON BOLLARDS – Ruling (3) of 2008:
- Tickets have previously been advised to share poster space on bollards and not to cover the posters of other tickets when there was free space available, nor to blanket bollards with their own posters leaving little or no free space.
- Unfortunately this advice has not been consistently followed, leading to unnecessary waste of resources and tension between campaigners. This is of particular concern given the evident policy concern of the Regulations to conserve paper.
- Therefore, effective immediately and for the remainder of the campaign, a limit of six (6) A3-size posters (or 12 A4-size) per ticket on any one bollard at any time is hereby imposed, by virtue of the Returning Officer’s power under Reg. 27.6 to control space allocation.
- Campaigners are also reminded that pulling down posters belonging to another ticket is prohibited conduct under Reg. 44.5.12, regardless of whether or not they are within the scope of this Ruling, and that the proper remedy for any alleged breach of this or any other Ruling or Regulation is to make a report to the Returning Officer.
CAMPAIGN VIDEOS – Ruling (4) of 2009:
In response to questions that have been raised, the Returning Officer rules that the following guidelines should apply to the production of campaign videos:
- The script needs to be authorised, and a printed copy must be placed in the authorised material file before the video is released.
- The Returning Officer needs to be notified as to what format the video will be distributed in, and links or physical copies lodged as appropriate.
- The closing credits need to include the words “published by [name & student # of someone who takes responsibility for it]” and “authorised by the Returning Officer”.
- Anyone who appears on the video other than as incidental scenery needs to be an eligible campaigner – ie a Melbourne University student and not an office-bearer who has not taken leave – and needs to have given their consent to appear.
- All videos must otherwise comply with all relevant regulations, such as not being misleading, defamatory, sexist, etc.
- These guidelines are based on the assumption that videos will be quite short – a maximum of two or three minutes – and will be reviewed if requests are made for longer videos.
PHOTOS AND LOGOS – Ruling (3) of 2011 [Revised]:
Identifying photos of candidates or other students may only be used in election material if they have already been placed in the public domain by the student concerned or if the written consent of the student has been obtained. This consent must be provided to the Returning Officer on request.
Logos from another group or organisation may not be used without the written consent of that organisation. This consent must be provided to the Returning Officer on request.
WOODEN SIGNS – Ruling (5) of 2012
In response to an enquiry about wooden signs, the Returning Officer rules as follows:
- Although wooden signs are not listed among the permitted items of election material in Regulation 27.1, the Returning Officer has the power under Reg. 27.1.7 to permit “other types of material” unless they are specifically prohibited by the Regulations. Reg. 27.3.1 specifically prohibits “publicity reproduced on paper larger than A3 size”.
- The Returning Officer believes that it would be contrary to the spirit of the Regulations to permit posters of any description larger than A3 size, even if they are made of some material other than paper.
- Exceptions may be made, as they have in the past, for material that is directly associated with campaigners, rather than put in position and then left, as with a poster. For example, a banner hung from the front of a table at which campaigners are based may be authorised, even though it is larger than A3 size; a banner hung from a building would not be.
- The same test would apply to wooden constructions. A sandwich-board worn by a campaigner, or placed beside a table or other location where campaigners were operating, may be authorised, provided it was not obstructing traffic. A free-standing unaccompanied wooden structure would not be.
- In each such case, authorisation needs to be applied for and the material needs to carry the appropriate authorisation line.
TWITTER, etc. – Ruling (3) of 2014
- Sina Weibo is a Chinese microblogging site, sharing some features of both Facebook and Twitter. Its use for election material has been allowed in the past, subject to proper authorisation.
- Ruling (3) of 2009, reissued in subsequent years, among other things banned the use of Twitter for election material. When that ruling was codified this year in the Electoral Regulations that specific ban did not appear, but the new Regulation 28.12 provides that “The Returning Officer may ban the use of specific online sites or social media services for election material.” The Returning Officer and candidates had proceeded on the assumption that Twitter remained banned for this election.
- Although Sina Weibo is not entirely like Twitter, it is sufficiently similar to raise much the same concerns, notably the limitation of posts to 140 characters and the fact that a person’s posts are typically visible to all of their followers.
- Accordingly, the use of microblogging platforms, including Twitter, Sina Weibo and similar sites, for election material is prohibited.
16 August 2016 Charles Richardson
Above Quota Elections Pty Ltd