Central Election Committee stands behind the supplementing of the council, but regulations need clarification

JAMKO’s Council of Representatives is the highest authority to make the most important decisions regarding the student union, and it is chosen with elections. The Central Election Committee is responsible for organising the elections. New committee for this year’s elections was chosen in the Spring meeting on 25th of April, but the previous committee wishes to clarify some confusion regarding last year’s elections. In the autumn of 2021, JAMKO’s Central Election Committee held the elections of the Representative Council. In the annual Representatives election, the highest authority of the student union is elected for the next term. The Representative Council consists of 21 full members and 21 vice members.

The candidacy filing period was in progress from Sept 9th to Oct 11th 2021. The election period was continued twice during that time, but a full amount of Representatives was not obtained. 18 people stood as candidates, of whom 18 were confirmed by the Central Election Committee as members of the Representative Council. Student Union’s rules declare that if the number of candidates is less than 21, there will be no voting. The Representative Council began its activities on November 22, 2021 at the inaugural meeting, where the composition was confirmed. In the meeting members of the representatives transferred to JAMKO’s Board, so the final amount of The council was 14 members.

JAMKO’s Board also had to be supplemented later, when the council lost another member. The final size of the Representative Council in January was 13 people, meaning 8 seats were vacant. According to the rules, the student union must hold new elections if the number of candidates is less than half of the actual seats (10 people in the Representative Council). The rules of the Student Union do not specify how to act when the conditions for a new election is not met. The Central Election Committee and the Representative Council felt that the small number of Representatives was not democratic enough, and the quorum of the meetings was a concern.

The Central Election Committee examined the rules several times, but there was no clear line on the matter. Other similar cases were also searched for without any luck. The Central Election Committee considered a number of possible options and decided to supplement the Representative Council with an open application as of 17 January 2022, in which a member, who had paid the membership fee could apply to the Representative Council. The Central Election Committee considered that it would have been unfair to hold a voting during the supplementing, because the candidates were not voted in the council in the original election. If so, the supplemented council members would have had a comparative index, that the original members do not have.

The supplementary recruitment ended when the seats were full, and that took about 4 days. Electoral Committee confirmed the eligibility of the candidates and the results. One of the candidates was not eligible, so the recruitment was opened again for one day, Jan 24th. The vacant seat was filled Jan 25th. The supplementary recruitment was announced in Student Union’s website and social media and also directly to the Study Field Associations.

While the activities of the Representative Council were already underway, the Jyväskylä Centre Students JOK approached JAMKO with a public statement and e-mail about their view in the elections. From their point of view, JAMKO did not follow good democratic election practices. JAMKO responded with a press release and corrected the allegations made by JOK. The Central Election Committee, JAMKO’s Board and the Representative Council discussed the matter, but concluded that the procedure did not violate the rules, and that the Central Election Committee is responsible for interpreting the rules. JOK also contacted the local media house, who contacted a lawyer.

After this, the Central Election Committee discussed the matter with external legal experts and the national student organisation University of Applied Sciences Students in Finland – SAMOK, and the conduct of the elections was clarified with their help. There are many open matters in the JAMKO’s rules and the law on associations, but no substantial damage has occurred. At no point has the Central Electoral Commission wanted to act undemocratically, but admits that it has paid too much attention to the resource-wise implementation of the supplementing recruitment and to the fact that the Representatives could begin to function fully. The Central Election Committee overinterpreted the rules and made assumptions based on the poor success of the fall elections that if a new election was held, it would not come into a voting situation.

The Student Union Election Regulations do not prohibit conducting a supplementary recruitment, but do not provide sufficient means to conduct it. The Student Union is aware that its rules have too much room for interpretation and too few guidelines for dealing with a similar situation. Overall, the situation has been a precedent and there has been no completely problem-free approach. Therefore, the Central Electoral Committee is behind the supplementary application procedure, but absolutely wants a similar situation to be avoided in the coming years. The Council will set up a working group for the regulations and the new rules will also be reviewed by external experts to ensure their clarity. In this way, the procedures will be fully transparent to the members in the future.

If JAMKO’s members want to know more about the procedure and circumstances that led to it, please contact the Central Election Committee at keskusvaalilautakunta@jamko.fi. The Central Election Committee and the Representative Council hope that the autumn elections will be more successful and that a motivated Central Election Committee will carry it out. JAMKO wants the work of the Representative Council and the importance of elections in the higher education community to become more visible. JAMKO also wants to emphasise that the Representative Council work could be an interesting alternative to participate in Student Union activities.

More information: keskusvaalilautakunta@jamko.fi

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