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Thursday, May 26, 2022
Big Ten schools struggle to raise turnout in student elections

Other Big Ten schools have also had decreased voting turnout over the last few years.

Big Ten schools struggle to raise turnout in student elections

Attempts to encourage UW-Madison’s student body to have a say in choosing their student representatives proved mostly futile last week after just 6 percent voted in the Associated Students of Madison student election — the lowest turnout in 10 years.

Before the election, Kate Wehrman, Student Elections Commission Chair, said ASM increased their social media presence and used an email campaign which included an informational graphic showing the number of representatives from each school.

Of the 41,522 students enrolled this spring, this means that there were only 2,411 completed ballots. But this is not just UW-Madison’s problem. Other Big Ten schools have also been struggling with lower turnout.

University of Illinois

Illinois saw a campus-wide participation rate of 11.78 percent. It’s an increase from the 2015 election, where 10.6 percent voted, but according to Katrina Rbeiz, press secretary for the Illinois Student Government, there’s still been a drop in the overall voting trend.

Through social media posts, free food on the quad and leaflets and posters containing information about elections, the student government tried to drum up support for the election.

Critics of student government often claim there is a disconnect between the students and their government, with many left feeling their vote doesn’t matter. But Rbeiz disagrees. Voting helps the student government by making sure officials are held accountable and that those elected represent the majority of students, she said.

“Not only would a low turnout hurt student government, but it would also hurt the student body,” Rbeiz said.

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Voter turnout also decreased at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities by three percent from 2017 to 2018. Before that, it had been increasing every year, according to the Minnesota Daily.

Only one candidate running for president and vice president was a part of the student government beforehand, making the election uncompetitive, Minnesota Daily writer Max Chao told The Daily Cardinal.

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Even with a controversial divestment referendum — similar to legislation that ASM passed last spring — during the University of Minnesota’s election, the voter turnout still decreased from last election.

University of Michigan

The University of Michigan has not had their spring student government election yet, but with more candidates, Elections Director Brian Koziara said he anticipates an increased voter turnout. However, he said he wouldn’t be surprised if fewer students voted since outreach wasn’t present on campus last spring.

Overall, Michigan’s numbers have steadily decreased over the past three years. When asked if this could be attributed to a disconnect between the student body and its government, Koziara said it could be attributed to other factors. These include populations that are more likely to vote — such as students who are involved in Greek life being more likely than those who are not as well as those living in the dorms in comparison to those living off campus, he said.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say that students are deciding not to vote based on them feeling like they’re not involved or engaged with CSG [Central Student Government],” Koziara said.

Koziara, whose job it is to advertise the election, said CSG usually leaves this task to the parties running for election.

“We don’t really do much in that regard except for sending out that campus-wide email — the reason being that the parties do a pretty good job of promoting the election themselves and we just don’t want to be too in your face about it,” Koziara said. “In a lot of cases, average everyday students who may not care about student government might want to vote, don’t want to be barraged with a million different ads about it.”

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