Katie Ascough was impeached last night almost 5 weeks after the original story about the removal of information from the Wingin’ It handbook broke. With 69% of students voting to impeach it is a fair to say that Ms Ascough’s suffered a serious defeat. Here we will look back at the various aspects of voting and what will happen next.
Solid majority in favour.
With a total poll of over 6600 voters this represents one of the largest student’s polls in recent UCD history, more than double the number of votes cast in the SU Presidential election last March when Ms Ascough was elected.
Across the board there were strong majorities in favour of impeachment, with most locations reporting 60% or more in favour of impeachment. The smallest majority was in the Quinn building where only 55% were in favour of impeachment. The largest voting block by raw votes calling for impeachment was in the Newman Arts building, where over 77% of students backed impeachment. Queues could be seen for most of the day at the Arts polling station in An Cuas. Evening voting for all students that took place there also came out firmly against Ascough with 76% of those voting in favour of impeachment.
Even buildings where Ms Ascough had the strongest showing in her election to be SU President such as Health Science and the Agricultural building were firmly against her this time out. In Agriculture where Ms Ascough got 54% of the first preference votes in March they voted 81% in favour of impeachment, the highest margin of any building. Health Science where she garnered 41% of the first preference in March saw 61% of students vote in favour of impeachment. Looking at these numbers it is fair to say that a number of students who voted in favour of Ascough in March also now voted for her impeachment.
Delayed student engagement
This vote was one of the largest in the recent history of the UCD SU, a remarkable achievement in and of itself. Many are pointing out how this is double the turnout of the SU election in March where only 3350 students voted. However, this should prove a source of concern for the SU, not of jubilation. The fact that students seemingly were not interested enough in the views and manifestos of the various candidates for President back in March but were more than happy to vote to impeach a sitting President highlights the problems the SU has with engaging its’ students.
Furthermore, the fact that this vote blew well past the quorum of 10% of eligible voters (or 2455 votes) should also concern the SU. It was possible for a group of students to start this process and motivate enough of their peers to come out and vote in numbers that the SU has been unable to achieve for elections. It also shows that a group of motivated students can effects major change in UCD which is not always a good thing. Only 860 signatures were needed in the end to trigger this vote, out of nearly 24,000 students, a pitiful amount. It is entirely possible that various groups will now recognise how easy it can be to effect change in the UCD SU mandate with the right group, and that our SU Constitutional thresholds are low enough for it to get passed.
With Ms Ascough now having been removed as President of the UCD SU a bye election will need to be held to elected her successor. This will be a very unusual process as our remaining Sabbatical officers will have to remain silent during the campaign to elected someone who will within the structure of the SU outrank them. Even more unusual is that whomever is elected will have less experience and a steeper learning curve, possibly hampering their ability to lead effectively.
The second interesting item going forward is the level of student engagement. While some are applauding the highest turnout in recent years as a good omen for the upcoming referendum on the 8th amendment, they haven’t really thought that through. Only ¼ of UCD students voted last night and of those nearly 30% were in favor of keeping Ms Ascough.
The bigger issue with seeing this as a microcosm for the referendum on the 8th amendment is that whole the debate about access to abortions did play a part in this, it was not a defining feature of the campaign. The Vote to Impeach campaign focused on representation and openness. The Fight4Katie campaign discussed her record and freedom of speech. It would be unwise to consider this a good omen for the repeal movement.
This was a student vote, on a student issue that has been twisted and misunderstood by those on the outside. It will end up being used by both sides in the upcoming referendum on repeal, but it will remain misunderstood by them as well. Such is politics.
You can see the final vote counts here.