Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) presidential candidate Ben Cummins has been given a major and minor strike by the Electoral Commission (EC).
The EC issued the major strike – which results in a five-hour ban on campaigning – after Cummins’s campaign materials were distributed to lecturers earlier today before campaigning officially started.
The minor strikes – resulting in a two-hour ban on campaigning – was handed down earlier today as members of Cummins’s campaign team directly uploaded campaign materials to their own social media pages, violating election rules by campaigning outside the permitted “area”.
If Cummins receives a second major strike he can be struck off the ballot at the discretion of the EC.
In an email statement to The University Times, Cummins said: “We concur with the details that have been provided to the EC – the Major strike regarding precampaigning occurred as a result of a miscommunication between ourselves and one of the lecturers that we contacted – despite us making clear in our correspondence that the campaign info was not to be disseminated until the beginning of the campaigns on March 1st.”
“We did this in an effort to be proactive and find a substitute for calling into in person lecture theatres to address classes – a common feature of physical campaigning in other years.”
“Indeed, these mistakes have in no small part come about as a result of the move to online campaigns this year – something that is unsurprising in many respects. With regard to the minor strike, we attribute this to the relative recency with which many of the election regulations regarding online campaigning have come into effect.”
“While this is regrettable, we respect the difficulty of the situation faced by the Electoral Commission at present”, he continued. “A ‘campaign area’ that effectively comprises all major forms of social media is infinitely larger and, thus, more difficult to police, than any set number of areas and venues on campus, and the task faced by the EC in trying to effectively and fairly monitor this area is nothing short of immense.”
“We’ve had a brilliant start to the campaign”, Cummins added, “I’m hugely grateful to my team and for all the support and the positive feedback we’ve received from students so far”.
“We’ll take this punishment, recoup, and keep the campaign going strong once we’ve served our time. I’m delighted with what we’ve achieved today, peaks and troughs included, and am looking forward to getting back out there on the campaign trail once again.”
In an email statement to The University Times, the EC said: “Presidential Candidate, Ben Cummins, has been given a major strike of a 5 hour ban from any campaigning during campaign hours on social media tomorrow Tuesday March 2nd.”
“This was due to the premature dissemination of campaign materials to lecturers which as per Schedule 3, is considered precampaigning. In one case, the video was shared with an entire class.”
“Earlier this evening, the EC also ruled to afford a minor strike to Presidential Candidate, Ben Cummins, to prevent him from campaigning for 2 hours during the campaign period. This was due to members of the campaign team, campaigning and uploading campaign material directly to their personal social media pages.”
“The campaign ‘area’, as written in Schedule 3 – 2.8.b, was determined by the EC to be the candidates’ official online social media pages, prior to the election.”
Cummins is the second candidate in this year’s TCDSU elections to receive a major strike after the EC awarded Leah Keogh, the incumbent welfare officer for TCDSU, one over the weekend.
The major strike was handed out after a member of her team accidentally published her campaign page on Friday, breaching regulations by campaigning early. The page notified 295 people and was live for eight hours before being taken down.
As a result of the breach, the EC has prohibited Keogh from launching her campaign on social media until Tuesday, March 2nd at 10am. Now with one major strike, a second for Keogh may result in her being struck from the ballot at the discretion of the EC.