Lead LUU: What will the students’ union elections look like this year?

This year, the Leeds University Union (LUU) elections, for which campaigning began on Monday, will take place during a national lockdown in which much of the university is closed and the students’ union itself has been repurposed into an asymptomatic Covid-19 testing site. 

The LeadLUU 2021 elections will decide who will lead the next LUU Student Executive. The board, which is made up of six full-time sabbatical officers, represent Leeds students and are elected for a one-year term. The election will also decide the next editor of The Gryphon.

The candidates, who in the week before an election would typically be seen on campus handing out flyers and talking to students, are now having to work out how to engage a student population that is geographically dispersed and isolated.

The rules for the election state that candidates should not campaign in-person if it is not legal or safe to do so. 

Michael Hewitson, the LUU Democratic Engagement Manager, told The Gryphon that the students’ union has reminded the candidates of the current government guidelines and is supporting them to campaign digitally. This means that for most candidates the campaign will take place entirely online.

Hewitson says that in-person campaigning has not been banned, however, as “lots of students, including our candidates, are either based in halls bubbles, or accessing campus” and as it is permissible to leave home for exercise, candidates can, for example, film a campaign video on campus whilst on their daily walk. LUU has also offered to put posters up in its building on behalf of candidates.

This week will see all the candidates being interviewed by Leeds Student Television. The interviews, which were pre-recorded and include questions submitted by students, will be posted throughout the week on Facebook and Youtube

LUU will also host a ‘speed meet’ event on February 24 on the video platform Glimpse. The event will give voters the opportunity to speak to candidates one-on-one for four minutes to ask questions.

Hewitson told The Gryphon that despite the challenges he remains confident that the election will be fair and accessible. He pointed out that whilst a lot of things have had to abruptly switch online in the last year, LUU has used online voting for its elections for a number of years.

Hewitson also said that the students’ union has made a concerted effort this year to encourage more students to put their name forward. “We have already made changes to how we as a Union have recruited, trained and supported candidates for this election – trying things we’ve not done before and working to ensure our training, briefings, mentoring are as accessible as can be.”

“The make-up of our candidates this year suggests that more kinds of members than normal have felt empowered and able to run – we have candidates running from outside of Leeds and outside of the UK as well which wouldn’t typically be the case with everyone on campus.”

The election, which will use a ranked preferential voting system, will take place online. All current students at the University of Leeds are eligible to vote. The polls will open at 7am on March 1 and will close at 7pm on March 4. The winners will be announced in a live results show on March 5.

Image Credit: Leeds University Union

Read More on the LUU website.