We have just learned that the result of the presidential race in the recent Students’ Union elections has officially been appealed. The result, which was arrived upon after four counts, including one the following day, has proved controversial for many reasons. On the night of the count, at around 2am and after three counts, the candidates were reportedly level. When the count reconvened the following morning, no one could really tell who the SU President would be at the end of the proceedings: Commerce Society Chairperson Martin Scally or Medicine & Health Rep Art Kelleher. After one final count, it was judged that Scally had taken the election by a margin of 6 votes, the smallest margin of victory for a sabbatical officer in UCC in three years (Barry Nevin, Comms, 40 votes) and quite possibly, as many claimed, the closest a Students’ Union election had been anywhere, ever.
With such a small difference between candidates rumours were bound to start. One in particular had gained traction on social media, and on platforms such as Yik Yak, and became known by some as “Brookfieldgate.” People claimed that students had not been allowed to vote in Brookfield late on Tuesday evening, as the polling station had run out of ballot papers, and that it was too late in the day to make more. In addition to this, a number of students based in the CUH had not been registered for that polling station (available from Tuesday from 9:30am until 1pm), instead being registered for Brookfield. There were also reports of certain degree programmes being turned away outright from the polling station in Brookfield, as there was no record of them being registered for the election. While many of people have claimed that these rumours were just that, rumours, I can confirm that we (UCC Express) have received a number of complaints from students who claim to have been turned away in the manner that is described above.
There were also a number of claims that electronic votes (votes cast by email by students on placement or studying abroad) had not been counted, however no proof of this claim has been offered, nor has it been uncovered.
Students were left wondering what would happen next; in a straw poll on our Twitter we asked people that, considering the closeness of the result, and the controversy, what did they feel should be done next: at the time of writing 250 votes had been cast, and 48% said they believed that students should vote again on the presidential race, 25% said they felt the result should stand, 4% believed there should be another recount, and the remaining 23% wanted to view the results. One student who contacted us, who asked to remain nameless, reiterated the feelings of the 48% above who wanted to return to the polls:
Regarding the discrepancy with the student union elections I believe there is no other option but to re-open the elections. Students have a democratic right to be able to vote and that was taken from them. Also the fact ballot papers weren’t available is unacceptable, and there could be some foul play could be involved.
If the president elect was really a president for the students he should to call for it to be re opened as it’s what the clearly students want.
At approximately 9:40pm tonight, candidate Art Kelleher announced that an appeal of the decision had been lodged with the Returning Officer, on the grounds that the election regulations had been violated. The rule in question is as follows:
All full members of the Students’ Union may vote on production of a current Student Identity Card. A ballot paper shall be issued to a voter only after his/her name has been checked with the register.
– Section 7(B) of the Students Union Election Regulations 2017
The statement, which can be read in full here, goes on to say that a meeting between Mr.Kelleher, Mr.Scally, the Returning Officer and the SU’s barrister has been requested, and is due to take place sometime tomorrow. They supported the appeal with testimonies from students, and have also requested that CCTV footage be released to support the claims made. We will endeavor to update you as soon as we know more. It is also currently unknown whether or not this appeal, if granted, will affect the other election results.
We approached the Returning Officer to comment on the allegations made regarding ‘Brookfield-gate’ earlier in the day, but they declined to comment.