TCDSU Campaigns and Communications Officer Tom Lowe has called for reform of the voter registration process following an incident in which a number of Trinity College students were turned away from polling stations in the capital during last Friday’s General Election.
The students, who had taken part in a TCDSU registration drive last November, arrived at various polling stations under the jurisdiction of Dublin City Council to discover that they were not listed on the register of electors.
Lowe informed The University Observer that the voter registration forms had been hand delivered to Dublin City Council in individual envelopes in advance of the closing date. “We got them in on time so as far as I’m concerned I just can’t see why this problem is emerging” he stated.
“Something that makes it so incredibly difficult for people to vote, even that there is a register of electors at all seems pretty strange to me” Lowe said. “It’s a very strange system and it’s one that we’ll be pushing [to reform] after this event.”
UCDSU Campaigns and Communications Vice-President Pat deBrún echoed Lowe’s call for reform of in light of Friday’s events.
According to deBrún UCDSU had yet to receive any complaints regarding voter registration from UCD students at the time of going to print. He believed that the fact that UCDSU sponsored registration drives were held last September, two months before the deadline, may have contributed to the success of student applications.
However he did not believe TCDSU were at fault. “I have firmly placed the blame at the door of the county councils and of the electoral system. I’m actually on a task force with USI on electoral law reform and we’re working on some kind of lobbying campaign to have it reformed” he stated.
Lowe said that “As far as [TCDSU] are concerned it’s not an issue that we have with Dublin City Council, it’s the system that needs reforming.”
At the time of going to print, fourteen formal complaints have been submitted to an e-mail account set up by TCDSU in order to assist students. He stressed that the volume of complaints was surpassed by the anger of those students who were turned away.
“I think we definitely will be looking into taking legal advice from a Professor in Trinity College” Lowe stated.
Both Lowe and deBrún expressed their disappointment for those students affected.
“It’s just frustrating when you want to enable people to have their voice heard and to become politically active” said Lowe, “that you end up facing administrative hassles.”
In a statement issued on Friday evening Dublin City Council confirmed that all applications received before the official deadline had been processed and stated that it could not explain why some students who claimed to have submitted the appropriate forms had not been listed on the register of electors.