Election Process to Start Over Again
Two days ago I wrote a Blog Post about the confusion among teachers over the mix-up in the Declaration of Identity Form issued to teachers for the election of teachers to the new Teaching Council. Two very basic typographical errors were contained in this form which should have been easily spotted by anyone proof-reading the form. In the top section of the form, teachers were asked to fill in the “Elector’s Name” instead of “Voter’s Name“; in the bottom section (which the Witness was to complete), the witness was asked to fill in the “Voter’s Signature” instead of the “Witness’s Signature”. Click on the images in the original post to see the errors contained in the form. I commented at the time that the errors had caused confusion among teachers and called into question both the efficiency of the Council and the legitimacy of the election process.
Because of this confusion, I submitted a series of questions (which you can read in the original post) to the Teaching Council seeking clarification on how teachers were to proceed with the election process. I also questioned the legality of the election process asking these questions:
“4. What is the legal standing of people who vote using either the original or the amended version of the Declaration of Identity?
5. Is the legality of the whole election now not in doubt, given the confusion caused by these errors? Has legal opinion been sought?
6. Should the election process now be halted, and new Ballot Papers and Declarations of Identity re-sent to all teachers?”
It seemed obvious to me that the response from the Acting Director of the council and Returning Officer for the election, Mr. Brendan O’ Dea, was wholly inadequate and reflected poorly on the election process of a professional body: “Voters should cross-out the word ‘Voter’s’ and insert ‘Witness’s’ on the form and ensure the witness signs this box.”
It appears that my instincts have been proved correct. This evening, the Teaching Council have issued a statement indicating that they have now sought legal opinion (which I had asked about last week but got no response to) and that they now have no choice but to set aside the election process already in train and to start the process all over again. The full text of the Teaching Council statement is as follows:
“The process for the election of teachers to the Teaching Council is underway. As part of this election process, on 17 February 2012 ballot materials were sent to all registered teachers eligible to vote in the constituencies where a poll must be held. The Council regrets that an error was contained on the Declaration of Identity form which issued with the ballot papers. Having taken legal advice, the Council decided at its extraordinary meeting on Friday, 2 March 2012, that it had no viable option other than to set aside the original ballot and to re-issue ballot materials to all registered teachers eligible to vote.
The Council is concerned to preserve the integrity of the election process at all stages so as to ensure members can be properly appointed to the next Council. The Council wishes to make it clear that, as required by the Teaching Council Acts, those members of the Council who are also candidates standing for election, withdrew from the Council’s discussion and did not participate in decisions on these matters. The Council apologises sincerely for any inconvenience caused and as a matter of priority, the Council will review the election process when completed.
1. Voters are requested to discard any ballot materials which they may have already received. The Council and the Returning Officer have decided to set aside the original ballot of teachers. Any ballot materials received by the Council in relation to the first ballot will be set aside.
2. Voters will shortly receive a fresh set of ballot materials and the Council urges Voters to complete these and return them to the Returning Officer so as to be received no later than 5pm on Tuesday, 20 March 2012.
3. In order to allow Voters adequate opportunity to submit their votes on time, the Returning Officer has extended the closing date for return of completed ballot papers to 5pm on Tuesday, 20 March 2012. The Returning Officer has also rescheduled the time and date for the counting of the votes to commence at 9am on Thursday, 22 March 2012. Counting of the votes will take place in Maynooth, Co. Kildare.”
This debacle portrays a very poor image of the professional body for teachers. It again calls into question the efficiency of the Teaching Council and begs the question, “How could they have got this so wrong?” I notice that the previous advice to scribble out the errors on the Declaration of Identity Form before returning them to the Returning Officer have been removed from the Teaching Council Website. The link to the Amended Declaration of Identity Form has also been removed from the website. The final question that now needs to be unequivocally answered is: How much will this debacle cost the Teaching Council?