The Electoral Commision (EC) has rejected a joint proposal put forward by sabbatical candidates Ben Cummins and Greg Arrowsmith to extend polling an additional day following reports of technical difficulties with the online voting system.
In an email statement to The University Times Secretary of the EC and incumbent Education Officer, Megan O’Connor, said that, despite the technical difficulties, the EC are confident of there being “sufficient opportunity for all students to place their vote”.
“There were a small number of concerns raised by students to the EC regarding technical difficulties with the online voting server. The server experienced some delays during high points of traffic since voting opened but any student concerns raised have been resolved. If students have any issues please contact [email protected] or [email protected]”, O’Connor stated.
“All students who wish to cast their vote are able to do so any time before 4pm tomorrow and all data submitted, has been captured. The voting hours as they are are already significantly extended from previous years, every student has received an email with undergraduates having received one each day and voting is accessible to students from any device, at any time of day.”
“On these grounds, the Electoral Commission is confident this is sufficient opportunity for all students to place their vote. It was clarified to all candidates that they may encourage students to vote outside of the normal hours once they were not campaigning on behalf of a candidate”, O’Connor concluded.
In a statement to The University Times, Arrowsmith – one of the two candidates for ents officer – said: “I’m massively disappointed by the decision of the EC to reject what I believe was a modest and reasonable proposal, given the significant struggle a large number of students have faced in voting thus far.”
Arrowsmith continued: “There is precedence for an extension such as the one that we proposed – QUB extended their sabbatical election by a day after experiencing technical issues. Though the SU may claim the online elections to be successful due to the high registration, this was mostly due to the huge work of the candidates and their teams in mobilising students to register, and it is immensely disheartening to see these students get discouraged from voting due to an IT system that isn’t fit for purpose.”
“The proposal would have gone a long way to remedy the issues that have plagued students so far, and would have been easy to implement from the EC’s perspective, so it is very disappointing, from a personal perspective, and as a student who would like to see the SU do everything in their power to cater to its students, to see the EC turn down the proposal”, Arrowsmith added.
In a statement to The University Times, Cummins – one of the three presidential candidates – said: “We’re disappointed with the resolution of the Electoral Commission not to extend the voting period in light of the obvious and widespread [technical] difficulties encountered by a number of students since the opening of polls on Tuesday evening.”
“Regardless of the number of concerns formally submitted to the EC, it is clear that the system in place has struggled to cope with the online influx of voters, and this has impeded, we believe, a significant proportion of students so far in casting their vote.”
Cummins added: “The decision of the EC not to properly acknowledge the scale of this problem is worrying, to say the least. Ultimately, we believe that this decision will result in a large number of students who have taken the time this year to register to vote this election period, finding it much more difficult to vote, and thus turnout will suffer.”
“This goes in the face of the [momentous] effort already made by sabbatical candidates and the SU to get people registered this year, and could have been largely alleviated by the addition of an extra day’s voting.”
“Nevertheless, we will accept this resolution and continue to urge everyone who has registered so far to remain engaged and cast their vote – as every single one will count. The good news is that we are still looking at a record turnout for this election period, and the efforts made by all candidates so far to engage with the student body are to be hugely commended”, Cummins concluded.
In a tweet earlier today, the union confirmed that people were having difficulties accessing their ballots, and said that “the servers will hopefully settle down in the next few hours so that everyone can cast their vote”.
Voting opened at 8pm yesterday after Halls hustings and will close at 4pm tomorrow – with results to emerge tomorrow night.
In a email statement to The University Times earlier today, Matthew Henry of EVIABI Ltd, explained that: “From a technical standpoint, although there has been significant slowdown due to the heavy traffic the system has been closely monitored by the EVIABI team and there has been no loss of voter data.”
Last August Trinity College Dublin Student Union (TCDSU) hired an e-voting system that facilitates the single-transferable vote, signing a two-year contract with EVIABI Ltd.
The contract cost TCDSU €17,000 for the two years which covers the running of all elections in this format, including elections with bodies outside TCDSU that the union have a memorandum agreement with.