Union President candidate Henry Hill was disqualified from the Union Elections on the morning of the final day of voting on Friday 8th March.
Henry Hill was disqualified by the Union Senate for being in breach of the by-law and guidance for candidates. One of the reasons for his disqualification was spending above campaign limits. On 25th March, the Students’ Union released a statement, confirming they were working with Henry Hill to look at campaigning guidance and rules, acknowledging ambiguity in the 2019 rules. To read more on this, click here.
Update – Following a statement by SUSU on 11th March, a public Facebook post by Acting Union President Steve Gore on the 9th and Wessex Scene obtaining the document by which Henry Hill’s disqualification by the Union Senate was assessed on, we can now reveal the full list of reasons for the former Union President candidate’s disqualification:
- Overspending his candidate budget of £20 by £10.75. While the allocated budget for candidates this year was significantly lower than the previous year, all candidates were instructed clearly as to budgetary limits. It is also suggested in the document cataloguing his breaches that he tried to delete evidence of this overspend on his candidate Facebook page once he knew he was being scrutinised over it.
- A complaint from another candidate of Henry Hill’s flyers being placed directly over theirs.
- The sharing of a HeartHampton Facebook Drake meme, Union Elections-themed post, which was deemed to breach Section C, paragraph 1 of Candidate by-laws and guidance: ‘The primary principle is that campaigning should be conducted in the spirit of the elections. It should be positive and friendly, not negative and confrontational.’ After being asked to remove this post from his Facebook campaign page, Henry Hill did so; however, it later came to the election team’s attention that the post remained on his Instagram page.
- Posting on his Facebook and Instagram candidate pages that he’d been sponsored by Waitrose. This breached Section 3 of candidate election guidance: ‘As these are student elections, they should only be contested by and between students. Accordingly, you cannot accept sponsorship (whether commercial or otherwise) as part of your campaign’.
- The use of ‘in association with the University of Southampton’ in a campaign video. After initially hearing about this particular complaint, Henry Hill blurred the wording to make it illegible, for which he received thanks for so doing in the email asking him to remove the meme post. However, he was asked to remove the video ‘from anywhere it may be in its original form’, which he was subsequently found to have not done on his Facebook campaign page.
On 11th March, Soton Tab published an article detailing Henry Hill’s campaign video breach and a number of accusations against the winning SUSU President candidate, Emily Harrison, concerning overspending and ‘using her SUSU position and resources to campaign for her presidential election run’. This comprised Henry Hill believing that Emily Harrison had printed off more than the 100 posters she had declared in her budget expenses at £19.95 and the tagging of her personal Facebook account by the VP Student Communities account which she also controls when posting about the SUSU Pride Parade during the campaign period. The Tab reported that after initially avoiding responding, Emily Harrison rejected both claims made against her campaign, stating that she at no point tagged her campaign page and the tagging of her personal account was on a live video due to Facebook’s automatic facial recognition tagging.
The Tab reported this was the only instance they could find of Emily Harrison’s personal account being tagged by the VP Student Communities account. However, closer scrolling of the VP Student Communities page timeline indicates that Emily Harrison’s personal account has generally been tagged in other videos previously, but also non-video based posts throughout much of the academic year, indicating it’s been a common occurrence rather than the Pride Parade event video being a deliberate one-off tagging in aid of the elections period as implied by The Tab.
Referring to the open letter and Change.org petition objecting to Henry Hill’s disqualification in his public Facebook post on 9th March, Acting Union President Steve Gore stated:
We are aware of an open letter and change.org petition being circulated. SUSU and the University can not accept these petitions – they are welcomed but they should instead be done via SUSU.org/petitions/…
In reference to the Drake meme post which compared unfavourably VP Welfare and Community candidate Fleur MacInnes’ campaign video to Henry Hill’s, Steve Gore stated that ‘it could be argued that due to Henry’s following and negative campaigning against a VP WAC candidate, that he unduly affected an election that was won by literally one vote’. Finally, on the overall decision to disqualify Henry Hill as a candidate in the elections, Steve Gore stated: ‘Any senators with a vested interest in elections were denied a vote, and I can disclose that I voluntarily abstained on this particular vote. This was an entirely STUDENT MADE decision’.
Individuals who voted for Henry Hill as their first preference saw their votes transferred to their second preferences.
Here is the Returning Officer, Sonya Enright’s statement in full which announced Henry Hill’s disqualification:
As Returning Officer, I received and investigated a series of complaints relating to one of the candidates standing for Union President, Henry Hill.
These complaints covered potential breaches of various aspects of the Elections By-Law and Guidance, which are in place to ensure free and fair elections with accountable campaigning. Amongst the complaints was a significant campaign overspend which resulted in extensive social media reach that is otherwise extremely unlikely to have been possible.
Having reviewed the evidence, I find that the candidate was in breach of the By-law and Guidance. The cumultaive effect of the breaches, as well as the relative significance of the overspend, are serious enough to withdraw the candidate from the election.
Union Senate considered and accepted my recommendation that Henry Hill should be withdrawn from the election with immediate effect. The Senate vote excluded any senators who were known to have any vested interest in the current elections.
As voting is underway, the candidate will still appear on the online ballot, but will be marked as withdrawn. Any votes cast for the candidate will automatically be transferred to the voters’ next preference during the count after the voting has closed.
In a public post on his Facebook campaign page, Henry Hill responded to this news on Friday 8th March, stating:
I didn’t want to comment on the current situation, but due to numerous people trying to contact me I feel I must address it.
SUSU took the decision last night, without giving myself the opportunity to represent myself, to remove me from the running for the position of Union President. Unfortunately the majority of the issue was surrounding the issue of slight overspending on my video, which I was made to remove anyway.
Hopefully the union will review the email I sent them this morning and address the situation. Unfortunately I am still awaiting a reply from the Deputy Returning Officer, despite the obvious urgency of voting closing. But I want to thank everyone for their continued support and any votes cast for me.
I am very confident that more things are going to come to light in the next couple of days regarding violations from many of the other candidates, so there is still a hope of President Hen, albeit very small.
Hopefully my experience will highlight the need for change both in the election process, how they conduct their review processes, how they handle funding of campaigns and with SUSU itself.
I wish the winning candidate the best of luck and hope that they can help the image of the union.
This all being said, I will be present at the elections tonight and would love anyone to come and support the cause anyway.
Following his disqualification, Henry Hill was removed from Wessex Scene‘s Union President exit poll. Prior to his disqualification, he was polling in second place.