Student Group Elections: Running an Online Hustings

With Student Group Elections voting on the horizon, you might be thinking of hosting a hustings so that candidates can address potential voters. VP Societies & Media Sophia Bolton and VP Sport Dom Brown tell you how to go about hosting your hustings online.

Student Opportunities stops for nothing, not even COVID-19. We are in full swing with Student Group Elections, with nominations running until Friday 1 May at midday.

If you’d like to nominate yourself for a committee position in your group then click the button below!

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What is a ‘hustings’?

An important part of elections for most groups is something called a ‘hustings’. A hustings is a meeting organised by your student group where candidates running in an election can address potential voters and answer any questions they may have.

In normal circumstances, this would take place in a lecture theatre, however our current predicament has resulted in an online method being the best option!

Why should I participate in a hustings?

Before our suggestion of how to run an online hustings, it’s good to note why they are so important in your elections.

As mentioned above, this is a fantastic opportunity for candidates to present themselves to members and give an idea of how they would shape the student group in their role. It is also an opportunity for members to ask key questions to the nominees so they can understand who they are going to vote for.

This event highlights the importance of having a strong committee with a united view to improve a student group, which they would be at the helm of for a year.

Finally, a hustings is an important part of democracy and is part of any elections structure.

How to run a hustings during lockdown?

Going online  

If you have been like us and taking part in quizzes with friends and families then you may have used some popular video call software packages. These are fantastic ways of staying in contact virtually. The best we have found for having a high number of people in a call is Zoom.

This is a free software which allows 40 people in a call for 40 minutes, we are of course expecting the hustings to last longer than 40 minutes depending on group size, but it is simple to start a call over again.

However, a top tip that we have found is that if you are hosting a call for the first time, the software often grants you an unlimited call time as a sort of welcome gift. It may not always work but worth a try!

What format should the meeting take?

You can keep the same format as a usual hustings. We would recommend nominating a host to orchestrate the proceedings.

Top tip – ask everyone in the call to place themselves on mute until they need to speak or ask a question, it helps avoid unnecessary noise and feedback.

Go through each committee position in a similar structure by asking the candidates to speak for one minute before there is a chance for members and previous committee to ask questions, which can be answered by the candidates collectively, not individually. There is a useful chat section where members can let the host know they want to ask a question.

When to host a hustings?  

Nominations close on Friday 1 May, there is then a gap of four days before voting opens on Tuesday 5 May for two days, closing on Thursday 7 May.

That gap between the end of nominations and the start of voting is the ideal period to host a hustings.

If you are struggling to find a good time for your members, then the final days of the nominations period would also work. However you will need to give enough warning for members who are still considering their nomination.

If a candidate is unable to make the time, they should be allowed to send a statement or video to be read out during the hustings.

Top tip – you could record the hustings using Zoom and make it available to people afterwards who could not be there. Please ask for permission from all those concerned to record.

I think we have pretty much covered the main things. If you have any further questions on this topic or anything to do with elections, then please get in contact!