Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) President candidate Ben Cummins has been issued with a major and a minor strike by the union’s electoral commission.
The EC has issued Cummins a major and a minor strike for separate offences, and a partial ban on campaigning tomorrow.
In a statement, 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.”
“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,” the EC said.
“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 one of three candidates running to be the union’s next president, alongside Leah Keogh and Luke MacQuillan.
A candidate who receives more than three minor strikes can be struck off the ballot. If a candidate receives two major strikes, a decision is made “at the discretion of the EC” as to whether they will remain on the ballot.
Speaking to Trinity News, Cummins said that he and his campaign manager “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 1,” Cummins said.
“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,” he said.
He said that the mistakes had come about “in no small part” due to the shift from the combination of physical and online campaigning seen in usual years to the online-only campaigns this year’s candidates must run.
“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,” Cummins said.
“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,” he said.
“We’ll take this punishment, recoup, and keep the campaign going strong once we’ve served our time.”
Cummins has become the second candidate to have been issued with a strike during this year’s election.
Fellow President candidate Leah Keogh received a major strike on Saturday due to pre-campaigning.
A member of Keogh’s campaign team had accidentally published her campaign page early.
The campaign period officially opened today with a virtual Dining Hall hustings, where candidates laid out their key priorities to students.
Campaigning continues tomorrow evening at Council Hustings and runs until near the end of next week.
Voting opens online next Tuesday, with the winners of each race to be announced on Thursday.
Additional reporting by Connie Roughan.
This article was updated at 00:27 on March 2 to include a statement from Ben Cummins.