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Dublin: 4 °C Thursday 12 December, 2019
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'Hundreds' of Trinity students denied chance to vote

A registration drive in Trinity College Dublin collected hundreds of new voters in Dublin City – but they didn’t get to vote.

Image: Julien Behal/PA Archive

Updated, 19.39

ONE OF THE COUNTRY’S largest students’ unions has said “hundreds” of its members may have been denied the chance to vote in today’s general election.

The students’ union at Trinity College Dublin, which has a membership of around 17,000, said it had organised a registration drive last month helping voters to get their details on the Supplemental Register of Electors ahead of today’s polling.

Dublin City Council, however, insists it processed every single application sent in before the deadline for new registrations two weeks ago.

Around 2,700 new registrations had been collected during Trinity’s registration drive, with “hundreds” of new registrations for the six constituencies under the remit of the City Council.

But despite delivering the completed forms by hand, in individual envelopes, to Dublin City Council’s headquarters on Wood Quay ahead of the deadline two weeks ago, some of the applicants for those constituencies did not appear on the register – and voters had been told they were not registered when they went to their local polling station.

As a result, the SU says its affected members were denied the right to vote, despite having fulfilled all the legal requirements asked of them.

The SU’s communications officer Tom Lowe said he suspected the City Council “didn’t have the numbers” to process the number of application forms submitted, and that the “paperwork hadn’t been dealt with” as a result.

Lowe added that while he had not heard of similar reports in other constituencies, he could not rule out the possibility that similar problems had been encountered by voters in other constituencies.

“If you can get 2,700 people out of a population of 17,000 to register, that’s a pretty big quantity,” Lowe said.

Gary Redmond, president of the Union of Students in Ireland which coordinated the national registration drive, said the union had registered around 10,000 people nationwide for inclusion in the supplementary register, and that the Trinity issues seemed to be ”isolated incidents” in a national context.

USI had registered about 20,000 students for inclusion in the 2011-2012 draft register of electors last year, having anticipated that an election might be forthcoming.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council, however, said the council “could confirm” that it had processed every single application form received before the official deadline, of 5pm on Tuesday the 8th.

As a result, the Council could not explain why some students who said they had submitted appropriate forms claimed to be unable to cast their ballots.

A spokesperson for South Dublin County Council, meanwhile, said central guidelines afforded councils the right to turn down “bulk” applications if they were received without formal warning.

Redmond said USI had been in discussion with Dublin City Council to discuss this possibility, and that the City Council had agreed to accept the applications given that each had been signed by a member of an Garda Síochána before submission.

Lowe added that the Trinity union had received legal advice on the matter and would be pursuing it after the election.

Students affected by the problem have been asked to email the Students’ Union.

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Gavan Reilly

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