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REPORT

Report of the Council on voting arrangements

The COUNCIL beg leave to report to the Regent House and the Senate as follows.

In the academical year 2003-04 a Review Committee, appointed by the Council, and chaired by the President of Lucy Cavendish, considered voting arrangements in University elections and on policy and on legislative proposals, and submitted a report to the Council which was published (Reporter, 2003-04, p. 1073). This report was put up for Discussion in the Michaelmas Term 2004 (Reporter, 2004-05, p. 133). The Council referred the remarks to the Review Committee for consideration, and have received advice from them. The present Report sets out the Council's conclusions.

1. The voting system: STV and alternatives

1.1. Unless the choice before the electorate is a simple yes or no, the Single Transferable Vote (STV) regulations at present apply automatically. The Review Committee considered other possible voting methodologies, but concluded that all, including STV, had advantages and disadvantages, and that the University should not be advised, at present, to change from STV, either generally or for particular classes of business. The Council agree with this conclusion, and accordingly make no proposal for a change in the voting methodology.

1.2. The voting methodology is applied by Ordinance, however, rather than by Statute, and if at some future time it seemed desirable, in the light of the then circumstances, change could relatively quickly be made. The Council hope that the proposals which they make later in this Report will mean that STV voting is less frequently necessary than at present in voting on policy and legislative matters and that more matters will be submitted for voting on a yes-no basis.

2. Other matters raised with the Review Committee

(a) Electronic voting

2.1. The Review Committee originally advised that arrangements for electronic voting in the Regent House could not be quickly introduced, but after considering the remarks made in the Discussion, they have suggested that introducing electronic voting should be looked at further. Provided satisfactory arrangements can be established, electronic voting should be more convenient for members of the Regent House than the existing system of voting using hard copy ballot papers, and should also be cheaper and easier to operate. The Council have therefore initiated a study of whether electronic voting in the Regent House can be introduced.

2.2. Initial work is already taking place to examine introducing electronic voting for student elections to the Council and the General Board, for which the electorate is much larger than the Regent House. It is hoped that voting in the 2006 student elections to these bodies can be electronic.

(b) The presiding officer

2.3. It was suggested in the Discussion that the Vice-Chancellor should cease to be the presiding officer for voting, but neither the Review Committee nor the Council believe that this is the appropriate course.

2.4. The Vice-Chancellor already normally delegates to the Administrative Secretary the administrative work of presiding over an election. The Vice-Chancellor would also have authority under Statute D, III, 7, should she or he see fit, to delegate the presiding officer's responsibility under the proposed new procedure for ordering the questions to be put to the Regent House (see section 3 below), to a member of the Regent House.

(c) Graces to amend the Statutes and Ordinances and other Graces

2.5. It was suggested in the Discussion that a procedural distinction should apply between these two classes of business, so that a longer period could be available before a Grace to amend the Statutes or Ordinances was approved. This is a constitutional matter rather than one related to the voting system as such. The present arrangements provide ten days from the publication of any Grace (other than one submitted at a Congregation) for it to be opposed. Proposals of significance are, of course, considered over a much longer period in the University, because they are normally made through a process consisting of Report, Discussion, consideration of remarks by the Council and other bodies, Notice, and Grace. The Council therefore, at present, make no proposal to amend the existing arrangement.

(d) Voting in the Senate

2.6. Voting in the Senate is currently in person, and in practice would arise in the case of a contested election for the offices of Chancellor or High Steward. It was suggested in the Discussion that a possible lack of an up-to-date List of Members of the University might mean that it would be difficult to monitor entitlement to vote. The Council have asked the Administrative Secretary to produce a full scheme for the conduct of such an election, which would cover arrangements for voting, establishing the identity of voters, and their qualification to vote. The possibility of postal voting in the Senate, on application for a ballot paper, is also being considered.

3. Putting the question to the Regent House

3.1 The Review Committee made two important proposals about voting in the Regent House:

(a) The questions put to the Regent House

3.2. The Review Committee suggested that better arrangements should be made than at present for the questions on which the Regent House was being asked to vote, particularly in complex policy matters with amendments, to be more clearly stated. They suggested detailed amendments to the regulations to permit the Vice-Chancellor, as presiding officer, to place the questions clearly and logically in front of the voters. Some detailed criticisms were made of the draft regulations, but more important it was also suggested that it was undesirable that such provision should be made at all. Neither the Review Committee nor the Council believe that dangers attach to such provision, and indeed both believe that significant advantage would arise if such arrangements were in place. Statute A, VIII, 8 already envisages that such authority can be given to the Vice-Chancellor.

3.3. The Review Committee gave an example of how such action might have made it easier for members of the Regent House to vote on a recent complex matter. The Council commend this approach.

3.4. The Council have therefore concluded that the procedural regulations should be expressed as clearly and simply as possible and that a revised set of procedural regulations, set out in the Annex to this Report, is needed. The draft regulations are not entirely as proposed by the Review Committee. In Regulation 6, provision has been made for a withdrawn Grace, if resubmitted in its original form, either to be the subject of a vote, or for an explanation to be given. In Regulation 11(a) (ruling an amendment as inadmissible and incompatible or immaterial) the Council propose, following the suggestion of Dr N. Holmes in the Discussion, that the present provision whereby the proposers of such an amendment are deemed to have asked for a vote should continue. The Council commend these draft regulations for consideration and, subject to any further points arising from the Discussion of this Report, would expect in due course to put a Grace to the Regent House recommending their adoption.

(b) Information for voters about the voting system

3.5. The Review Committee suggested that a simple explanation of the principles of STV should be annexed to STV voting papers. The Review Committee produced a model. Another model is that used by the Electoral Reform Society. The Council agree that it would help voters to have such an explanation and intend to suggest to the presiding officer that one is introduced.

3.6. The Council believe that adoption of procedural changes such as those proposed in this Report will assist the Regent House in considering major University policy, and in voting on legislation. They believe that such steps are an essential measure to promote the efficient conduct of the academic self-government of the University.

4. Procedure for considering this Report

4.1. This Report is put up for Discussion on 24 January 2006. The Council will consider the remarks made, will revise the draft regulations set out in the Report as necessary, and will submit the resulting version, if they decide to proceed, to the Regent House, for approval by Grace (and to the Senate if a Senate Grace is necessary).

28 November 2005ALISON RICHARD, Vice-ChancellorMIKE CLARKG. A. REID
 A. J. BADGERBOB DOWLINGVERONICA SUTHERLAND
 Z. BARANSKID. LOWTHERLIBA TAUB
 RICHARD BARNESD. W. B. MACDONALDLAURA WALSH
 NIGEL BROWNJAMES MATHESONJOAN M. WHITEHEAD
 WILLIAM BROWNMARTIN REESRICHARD WILSON

 

ANNEX

Suggested amendments to Regulations 5-15 for Graces and Congregations of the Regent House (Statutes and Ordinances, p. 109).

Proposed amendments are indicated in bold type.

5. A Grace shall be deemed to have been approved by the Regent House at 4 p.m. on the Friday next but one after the day of its submission unless before that hour

either(a)the Grace has been withdrawn by the Vice-Chancellor in accordance with Regulation 6;
or(b)the Council have given notice in accordance with Regulation 7 that a vote is to be taken on the Grace;
or(c)a request has been received by the Vice-Chancellor for a vote to be taken on the Grace in accordance with Regulation 8;
or(d)a proposal has been received by the Vice-Chancellor for the amendment of the Grace in accordance with Regulation 9.

6. A Grace may be withdrawn by the Vice-Chancellor (i) at any time before the hour specified in Regulation 5 for its approval, and (ii) if voting is requested (Regulation 5(c)) or (iii) if amendment is proposed (Regulation 5(d)), within three weeks after the day of its submission. Withdrawal of a Grace under this regulation shall be announced by means of a Notice posted outside the Senate-House and subsequently published. If the Council decide to resubmit such a Grace in its original form they shall either (a) call a ballot or (b) publish an explanatory Notice explaining why in their opinion a ballot is not necessary.

7. The Council shall have power to determine that a vote shall be taken by ballot on any Grace. Notice of such a ballot shall be published in the Reporter when the Grace is submitted.

8. Any twenty-five members of the Regent House may submit a written request to the Vice-Chancellor for a vote to be taken on a Grace by ballot. If such a request is received by the Vice-Chancellor before the hour specified in Regulation 5 for the approval of the Grace, a ballot shall be held in accordance with the provisions of Regulation 13, unless the Grace is withdrawn under Regulation 6.

9. A written proposal for the amendment of a Grace which has been submitted to the Regent House may be initiated by members of the Regent House in accordance with Statute A, VIII, 7, provided that the proposal is received by the Vice-Chancellor before the hour specified in Regulation 5 for the approval of the Grace or, if a request for a ballot on the Grace has been received, within one week of the date on which a Notice of the request has been published under Regulation 10 below. In that event, (unless the Grace is withdrawn under Regulation 6), and subject to the provisions of Statute A, VIII, 9 and of Regulation 11 below, a vote shall be taken by ballot, using the procedure prescribed in the Single Transferable Vote regulations; the options to be voted on shall include (a) approval of the proposal contained in the Grace as submitted to the Regent House, (b) rejection of the proposal, (c) approval of alternative proposals formulated in accordance with the amendment or amendments proposed, and may include (d) any further alternative proposal which may be formulated by the Council; provided that the Vice-Chancellor may instead decide that a vote shall be taken by ballot, using the procedure prescribed in the Single Transferable Vote regulations, between propositions that the Grace be left unamended or that it be substituted by one of such one or more alternative forms as may be determined by the Vice-Chancellor to reflect the amendment or amendments proposed. If an alternative form is approved, then that alternative form shall be substituted for the Grace as originally submitted, and shall be treated for all purposes as if it were that Grace. A ballot shall then be taken for the approval of the Grace, in accordance with Regulation 13 below.

10. If a request for voting is received under Regulation 8, or if a proposal for the amendment of a Grace is received under Regulation 9, the Vice-Chancellor shall give notice accordingly by means of a Notice posted outside the Senate-House and subsequently published. The Notice shall include the names of the persons who have requested the ballot or who have proposed the amendment, as the case may be.

11. The Vice-Chancellor shall have the following powers in respect of proposals initiated under Regulation 9 for the amendment of a Grace:

(a)If in the opinion of the Vice-Chancellor a proposed amendment is in substance and effect incompatible with the main purpose of the Grace to which it refers, or immaterial to that purpose, the Vice-Chancellor may rule the amendment inadmissible, or may refer it to the Council for subsequent separate submission as a Grace. The proposers of such an amendment shall be deemed to have requested that a vote be taken on the Grace in accordance with Regulation 8 above.
(b)If two or more amendments have been proposed which in the opinion of the Vice-Chancellor are substantially similar in effect the Vice-Chancellor may select one of the amendments for submission to the Regent House and may rule the other or others inadmissible.
(c)The Vice-Chancellor shall have authority to determine the form in which the various propositions are set out in the voting papers; without prejudice to the generality of that power (i) if in the opinion of the Vice-Chancellor a proposed amendment comprises two or more separable propositions, the Vice-Chancellor may treat the amendment as if it were a number of amendments, each comprising one or more of those propositions as the Vice-Chancellor may determine; and (ii) the Vice-Chancellor may determine that votes shall be taken on propositions as if they were separate Graces, each such Grace being treated for all purposes as if it were the Grace as originally submitted. The Vice-Chancellor shall if necessary indicate in the voting papers (i) whether the result of voting is effective without a further Grace (by rescinding or amending a Statute, Ordinance or Order, or otherwise) or (ii) whether a further Grace would be needed to implement the result of voting.

12. If a ballot is to be held under any of Regulations 7-9, the arrangements for voting shall be determined by the Vice-Chancellor, subject to the provisions of Regulation 13, and shall be published in the Reporter.

13. A ballot on a Grace of the Regent House, or a ballot held under the provisions of Regulation 9 above, shall be conducted by post. Voting-papers shall be distributed to all members of the Regent House not later than a day appointed by the Vice-Chancellor, which shall be neither less than fourteen days nor normally more than twenty-eight days of term after the publication of the Notice announcing the ballot; provided that the Vice-Chancellor shall have power to postpone the distribution until a date not later than eighty days of term after the publication of the Notice. The Vice-Chancellor shall give public notice of the day for the distribution of voting-papers and of the latest time for their return, which shall be not earlier than the tenth day after the day appointed for distribution.

14. When a ballot is held in accordance with the preceding regulations, the presiding officer shall be the Vice-Chancellor or a duly appointed deputy. The presiding officer shall

(a)arrange for the counting of the votes as soon as possible after the conclusion of the voting;
(b)decide upon the validity of any doubtful vote;
(c)declare the result as soon as the counting of the votes is completed.

If there is an equality of votes, the Grace or amendment shall be deemed not to be approved. The result of a ballot shall be announced by means of a Notice posted outside the Senate-House and subsequently published.

15. If an obvious or immaterial error occurs in the published form of a Grace or amendment, the Vice-Chancellor may announce a correction by means of a Notice published in the Reporter and for the purpose of Regulation 5 or Regulation 9, as the case may be, the Grace or amendment shall be deemed to have been submitted in its corrected form.


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Cambridge University Reporter 30 November 2005
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