Reports have come in that multiple students have been harassed into voting for various candidates in this year’s KCLSU elections.
Many students have come forward complaining that they have been intimidated by candidates and their representatives aiming to collect votes.
The KCLSU has been put under pressure by students to launch an investigation into the incidents, with total electoral disqualification a potential consequence of anyone who is found to have committed electoral fraud.
A protest took place this evening at the election announcement event to put more pressure on the KCLSU to launch an investigation, forcing the event to be cancelled after protesters occupied the stage.
Results will now be released entirely online.
An investigation may change the results that are released tonight and may even trigger a re-election.
Electoral fraud can be achieved through any of the following actions according to the KCLSU Election Bye Laws:
“Anti-Social and Intimidating behaviour, or any Anti-Social and Intimidating behaviour, or any violation of KCLSU Safe Space Policy violation of KCLSU Safe Space Policy violation of KCLSU Safe Space Policy
- Attempts by candidate or campaign team to influence or interfere whilst a student is casting their vote
- Campaigning activity that is disruptive to others
- Campaigning activity that uses disorderly, threatening, harassing or offensive behaviour or language; in person, in writing (including electronically) or orally
- Campaigning activity that uses intimidating or discriminatory behaviour or language; in person, in writing (including electronically) or orally
- Campaign activity that may have criminal and / or legal implications”
Georgie Spearing, KCL LGBT+ Society President and Candidate for VP Arts and Sciences, commented on the allegations for Roar: “The allegations don’t surprise me at all: campaigners seem to care more about winning than keeping their integrity.
“We were all given a compulsory briefing where the rules and consequences were explained to us, but sadly the average student doesn’t have this knowledge. This means students are taken advantage of year after year.
“No wonder students are so apathetic towards the SU when the very people asking for their trust are openly manipulating them in such a calculated way.”
Many other candidates have since spoken out about the allegations, with Presidential candidate Carrie Toptan describing the actions as “irresponsible” and “unacceptable” and fellow Presidential candidate Claudia Watts calling them as “horrendous”.
Meg Phillips, a second year English Literature undergraduate, commented for Roar on her own experiences being faced with these types of voting tactics: “Earlier this girl comes up to me with a flyer and asked me to vote for Mohamed. I said I could do this on my own but she was persistent and kept insisting that I “Vote Mo, Vote Mo” over and over again.
“She nearly took my phone off me and was trying to tell me how to vote for him and I had to ask her to let me do what I wanted because she was being persistent and making me uncomfortable.”
Rahma Hussain, the former VP for Activities and Development who is now a 3rd year History undergraduate, also had a similar experience when she was approached “forcefully” by someone “male and running for VP Arts and Sciences”.
Rahma said: “As a former sabbatical officer of KCLSU, allegations of election fraud are not brand new or surprising. The SU has, at least in recent years, been victim to a select number of election candidates who have in essence cheated their way into winning positions.
“These election fraud tactics include intimidating and harassing students to vote, grabbing phones from students and doing the vote for them, and this week I’ve seen candidates forcing students to scan a QR code from their phones and watching them cast their vote.
“Many candidates have chosen to abuse this rule which calls into question their integrity and character. Should students really be represented by those who have cheated their way in?”
A statement has since been released by KCL Intersectional Feminist Society called “Call to Action against THE HARASSMENT OF WOMEN in KCLSU ELECTIONS” which has called on students to voice their concerns regarding the “harassment of women and non-binary students on campus that have been associated with the KCLSU elections”.
The statement says that there has been “widespread concerns about the conduct of numerous candidates in this year’s elections” who have “undermined the principles of democracy” by using “tactics of intimidation”, with women or colour being a specific target.
It calls for the “perpetrators of these reprehensible actions are held accountable and not allowed to represent us based on an election that has been compromised.”
The statement has been signed by many students and notable societies, including LGBT+ Society, KCL It Stops Here Campaign and Sexpression.
A link to the statement can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/kclintfemsoc/posts/1134388173412800
After a year of growing disillusionment and distrust in the KCLSU and it’s ability to conduct a fair and representative democratic process, it remains to be seen whether change in the election culture will actually be implemented and whether those who have broken rules will be disciplined.