Teaching Council Election voting papers have recently been posted out to all teachers registered with the Teaching Council. Teachers were supplied with two Ballot Papers – one for the female candidates and one for the male candidates. Teachers were asked to vote 1, 2, 3 in the order of their preferences. Teachers were also supplied with a Declaration of Identity Form which they were asked to complete and have witnessed by a person known to the teacher. However, herein lay the errors which caused much confusion among teachers and which called into question both the efficiency of the Council and the legitimacy of the election process. In the top section, 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“. Because of concern expressed on internet forums, I emailed the Teaching Council asking for a statement on the issue, and requesting answers to the following questions:
1. How is it that this form was not proof-read by someone at least twice before this was sent out to teachers?
2. Is the Amended Declaration of Identity Form on the Teaching Council website now the only valid form accepted to allow a teacher’s vote to be deemed valid?
3. If a teacher sends back the Declaration of Identity Form they received in the post (with the errors), will their vote be deemed to be invalid?
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?
7. What assurances can the Teaching Council give to teachers that such basic errors will not occur again in the future?
Since Áine Lawlor, the previous Director of the Teaching Council, has now retired and has not been permanently replaced as yet, I received a reply from Mr. Brendan O’ Dea, the acting Director of the Council and the Returning Officer for the election process. He stated:
“Election ballot documentation has been posted to teachers eligible to vote in the Teaching Council elections. The Declaration of Identity form included a typographical error in the witness’s section of the form (the lower part of the form). The box titled ‘Voter’s Signature’ should have been titled ‘Witness’s Signature’. Voters should cross-out the word ‘Voter’s’ and insert ‘Witness’s’ on the form and ensure the witness signs this box. Alternatively, teachers may download an amended form. In summary, either of the Declaration of Identity forms is acceptable provided the voter’s ID is duly witnessed. All of the ballot documentation was proof-read but most regrettably this error slipped through. From a Council perspective there is a clear lesson to be learned with regard to the proof reading of documentation.”
I’m not sure whether this response answers all of the questions posed. Nevertheless, this must be an embarrassment for the Teaching Council and further calls into question the efficiency of a body charging teachers €90 per year to renew their registration with the Council.