At National Conference 2014, delegates passed a policy to ensure that delegations to National Conference would be made up of ‘at least 50% self-defining women, rounded down’. NUS have produced guidance for students’ unions, this article explains how to run your election in line with this guidance using your MSL system.
This article can also be found in our support pages along with everything else you need to know to set up, run, and return your election using MSL. If you do not have a login to our support pages please contact the helpdesk and we will set one up.
Setup is no different to setting up a normal election, you need only run a single election for NUS Delegate and each voter need only vote once. The change to normal procedure takes place at the count. You must also make sure you know which of your candidates self-define as women.
Identifying women candidates
“It is very important that you ask candidates to define their own gender identity at the point of nomination”
To do this you need to direct your candidates to the Election Profile page at /elections/profile/.
This page lists all Self-Definition groups in your system. Provided you have a membership group in your Self-Definition organisation for Women, users can use this page to self-define. If you don’t have a Self-Definition organisation please contact the helpdesk.
The Elections Profile is our recommended route as it allows users to change how they self-define at any point during their time at University. You could also use a signup, mailing list widget, or survey to capture whether candidates self-define as women.
The NUS has recommended a method for counting elections, we also outline an alternative method. Both methods are easily implemented in MSL and it is up to each Union to decide which method they wish to use, the guidance states that “the outcome is more important than the process”:
“…it is for students’ unions to decide what counting procedures and related rules they wish to use. As long as a students’ union conducts a cross-campus ballot and registers a delegation with 50% women (rounded down), then this will satisfy the requirements.”
Running two counts (NUS’s recommended method)
In MSL you can count each election as many times as you like with different candidates included or excluded for each count. Each time you run a count only candidates set to ‘approved’ will be included, votes for any withdrawn, disqualified, or unapproved candidates are allocated to their subsequent preference.
In Elections Admin > Posts set the number of places equal to the half the total number of places (rounded down).
In Elections Admin > Candidates exclude any candidates who do not self-define as women. You will need to refer to your previously captured information, whether by survey or self-definition membership, and set the status of those candidates to anything other than ‘Approved’.
Run the count as normal and make a note of the winning candidate(s).
In Elections Admin > Posts set the number of places equal to half the total number of places (rounded up)
In Elections Admin > Candidates re-approve all legitimate candidates (ensure you don’t inadvertently approve anyone who has genuinely withdrawn or been disqualified) and ‘unapprove’ your winning candidate(s).
Run this count as normal electing the remaining places.
To make this process easier we are introducing a feature to allow you to mark the candidates to include in a count but if you are running your count before this has been implemented simply follow the process described above.
Running one count (an alternative method)
Run your election count as normal with the following provisos:
If excluding a woman candidate would mean there are not enough remaining women to fill half the places (rounded down) you should pass them over and instead exclude the next lowest candidate(s).
If at any point candidates who do not define as women have won half the available places (rounded up) you should exclude all remaining candidates who do not self-define as women then proceed with the count as normal.
Comparison of the two methods
The most important thing is that both methods will guarantee a gender-balanced result, however, the two methods will not always achieve the same result.
The first method returns the women with the most highest-ranked preferences and in each count candidates must reach a higher quota than they would in a single count, but can also give additional weight to subsequent preferences of those whose first preferences were for the most popular women in the first count.
As an illustration:
Under normal count rules my first preference candidate (a woman) wins a seat in the election. If she achieves the quota my vote is allocated to her and is no longer transferred to any other candidate. If she exceeds the quota she retains a fraction of my vote and the remaining fraction may be transferred on to my subsequent preferences.
Under a two count system if my first preference candidate is elected in the first election then in the second my vote is reallocated whole to my next preference rather than the fractional value they may have received in a normal count.
If your election would have been naturally gender-balanced the NUS's two count method will likely elect the same candidates in the women-only count as would win under normal count conditions but can elect different candidates overall.
The alternative (one count) method only make exceptions in the event the quota would not be reached. If your result is naturally gender-balanced using this method is no different to running your count normally.
We recommend you read the full NUS document for additional guidance on election accessibility, campaigning, and what to do if you have insufficient female candidates to fill your delegation.