Sammy McDonald won with 94 votes, out of 134 cast Chang Liu with permission for Varsity

Sammy McDonald has been elected as Union Debates Officer in a landslide victory, after his opponent was found guilty of electoral malpractice.

McDonald won with 70 per cent of the vote, having lost to his opponent Joshua Lim by one vote in Sunday’s election, which was rerun yesterday (13/10) after three of Sunday’s ballots were found to be invalid.

Joshua Lim was handed a formal warning for electoral malpractice, but the election went ahead as planned. 

Lim told Varsity that he “was aware of the likelihood” that he had broken campaigning rules before the complaints were made.

This was the first completed, but third attempted vote for Lent 2024’s Debates Officer, as Sunday’s set of races were held following last term’s cancelled elections, after the union was hit with a rigging scandal.

Details of the allegations against Lim were posted on the Union’s noticeboard on the morning of yesterday’s election. The candidate was issued with a formal warning after it was concluded that he had committed Category 3 Electoral Malpractice.

The electoral complaints, seen by Varsity, allege that Lim engaged in ‘hack messaging’ on three counts, used a proxy to send hack messages, and failed to delete his campaign account until the morning after being instructed to do so.

‘Hack’ messaging, though a legitimate tactic in regular Union elections, was banned in the lead up to the reruns of the Easter term elections, which took place on Sunday. The complaint claims that Lim privately messaged three separate Union members asking for their vote. In one such exchange, the recipient told Lim that he “shouldn’t be messaging people to vote.”

The complaint also notes that on the 11th of October, after the Union had begun deciding whether to investigate Lim, the candidate sent an unsolicited campaign message to a Returning Officer, the official responsible for upholding electoral standards.

The Union judgement confirms that Lim sent “unsolicited campaign messaging” to “inappropriate parties (the Returning Officers).” The ruling also mentions the “lack of possibility that the candidate could have been unaware of the rule against” such tactics.

Joshua Lim told Varsity that he accepts this ruling of electoral malpractice: “I recognise my mistake and do apologise sincerely. It was a stressful period, and these messages were not sent with any ill-intent.”

“I was aware of the likelihood of my committing electoral malpractice, and do sincerely apologise for that. I should have definitely been more cognisant and careful,” Lim said.


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Lim disagreed, however, with the other two allegations, stating that he provided “photographic evidence” to contradict the claim of using a proxy campaigner, and that the Returning Officers approved the timeline he proposed for deleting his campaign account when asked to do so.

Lim said: “I would like to use this opportunity [...] to thank all my friends who have supported me in every way shape or form [...] I owe them so much, and regardless of the loss of the elections, I have already won because of all these friendships.”

Sammy McDonald, newly elected Lent 2024 Debates Officer, said: “My thoughts and thanks are with my opponents, Haiwei Li and particularly Joshua Lim after three tightly-fought contests. I deeply appreciate their many contributions to the Union, and hope they remain active within the society.”

The Union needs “fundamental structural and cultural changes to ensure nothing like this can happen again, and that work starts today, he said.

While the Union ruled that Lim was guilty of sending hack messages, the ROs were not able to substantiate the other two allegations.