Campaigning for the Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) sabbatical elections will take place entirely online this year, with the polls closing on March 10th.
The official campaign period will begin on March 1st, with the 10-day election cycle seeing students elect a president, education officer, welfare and equality officer, communications and marketing officer, ents officer and the editor of The University Times.
In-person campaigning – normally a hallmark of the election period – will not be allowed this year due to the deteriorating situation regarding the coronavirus pandemic.
The TCDSU Electoral Commission (EC) will require candidates to provide joint access to all campaign social media accounts, with platforms restricted to those TCDSU uses.
For example, TCDSU does not have a TikTok account, so candidates cannot post on that platform but can produce TikTok videos and post them on approved social media platforms.
Candidates will not be allowed to canvass group chats and paid online advertising is forbidden.
Nominations for the six sabbatical officer positions will open on February 1st at 9am and will close on February 15th at 5pm. Candidates will subsequently be announced both on the steps of House Six and on TCDSU’s social media accounts.
Speaking to The University Times, TCDSU Education Officer Megan O’Connor, who is responsible for overseeing the election campaign, said: “We’re going to keep it as close to what it was previously as we can, maintaining traditions and things like that, but we’ll also be doing our very best to platform all of the candidates on our social media.”
As in previous years, campaigning will take place from 10am to 4pm, with an hour-long break for lunch from 1pm to 2pm. This means that candidates may only post on social media between these times.
TCDSU will publish video profiles of candidates during the election period, while TCDSU Communications and Marketing Officer Philly Holmes will provide impartial advice to all candidates on how to use social media for campaigns.
Dates for campaign hustings have yet to be announced – with there normally being an equality hustings hosted by TCDSU council), a media hustings hosted by The University Times and Trinity News and a Halls hustings hosted by Trinity JCR.
Any student who registered to vote in class rep elections is already automatically registered for the sabbatical elections, and registration will open again for those who have not already signed up to vote.
At the beginning of the academic year, TCDSU entered into a two-year contract with Eviabi, an online voting platform which was used for the TCDSU class rep elections at the start of the academic year.
The cost of using the platform is €8,500 per annum and it is available for use by all organisations whose elections are associated with TCDSU including the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU).
O’Connor said: “When sourcing an online voting platform, although cost was a factor, the major factor was ensuring the voting platform was both secure and compliant with our election and voting regulations.”
O’Connor added that the union received quotes from other platforms which were more expensive than Eviabi.
TCDSU elections use a proportional representation-single transferable vote system, which the Eviabi system allows, while the platform is also GDPR compliant with Eviabi serving as a data processor rather than data controller.
O’Connor added: “It was something that we needed to invest in. Absolutely, it is something that we can’t risk getting wrong.”
“I think we need to ensure that all of our voting and democratic systems are entirely transparent and done properly and that’s not something we would ever be willing to compromise on. I’m very confident that we got the very best we could of from it.”
Eviabi has been used at every TCDSU council meeting this year and will quicken the process of counting ballots, with an option to hand count if there are irregularities though voters will not be identifiable by their ballot.