In an emergency meeting this week, UCD’s Union Council voted to approve moving the election of Executive Students’ Union Officers online. The constitution of the SU requires a two-thirds majority in favour of online voting in order to approve the motion, which they achieved with 63 of the 76 attendees voting in favour.
In a communication with UCD Students’ Union (UCDSU) election candidates, the Returning Officer explained that, in order to facilitate candidates with the election campaigns during “unprecedented times”, candidates will be administered “paid online advertising”. This advertising will be organised directly through the Returning Office. However, candidates will not be allowed to pay for their own advertising online. The Union will feature the manifesto of each candidate on social media and their website.
During the emergency meeting, which took place over Zoom, an online video calling platform, it was explained that the election would likely take place during weeks 11 or 12. Additionally it was expressed that the voting period would likely take place over a 48-hour period and that students who wish to vote will need to register before the voting period. This is a measure to ensure the integrity of the electoral process. The Union will also be working alongside the UCD Communications office to increase engagement with the election.
Despite taking place online for the first time ever, the election will still take place using the constitutionally mandated system of proportional representation by single transferable vote (PRSTV). In an email to Union Council members, the SU executive stressed the importance of participation of students in the democratic process and encouraged class reps to “do a big push” to get as many students to register as possible.
The election is moving online following the total lockdown of UCD from the 30th of March as a result of additional measures announced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to further restrict social gatherings and interaction, in light of the developing COVID-19 pandemic. As education is not on the list of exemptions to the new government restrictions, travelling for or attending education is not permitted.
A similar process was undertaken by Trinity College Dublin’s Students’ Union which hosted the election of their part-time officers online last week after the closure of the Trinity campus. As is currently proposed by UCDSU, Trinity candidates circulated content written by the candidates, as well as videos, online to give a platform to candidates. Lorna Fitzpatrick, USI President- elect, received the support of TCDSU’s delegates in the USI Presidential race which also took place online. COVID-19 restrictions also stopped USI hustings from taking place this year as large groupings have been restricted at present. The same restrictions have led to meetings of the TCDSU Students’ Council now taking place via email.
Hugh Dooley – Reporter