By Mital Patel
Getting college students to participate in elections has been an ongoing challenge for student governments. The turnout at Union’s Student Forum elections proves we are no exception.
At other colleges, voting rates of 30 percent are considered to be good, but earlier this month, there was only about 20 percent voter turnout for next year’s executive board of Student Forum. Such a low rate was seen even after Student Forum made active efforts for change. Not only did they table for a week in Reamer in hopes of hyping up the election, but they held a “Getting to Know the Candidates” question-and-answer session, which also had an extremely poor turnout. In an attempt to combat the general apathy seen on campus for elections, Student Forum should turn to technology.
Shifting to online elections gives the student body many advantages. A study done at Dickinson College showed a 51 percent voter turnout rate after switching to an online vote– the highest the college had ever seen. If Union were to implement a similar change, more students would be willing and able to voice their vote. With help from the IT department available at Union, a secure program that ensures a fair election is possible. Students will no longer have to be bound to one location and a short segment of time to cast their vote. Online ballots can be open for 24 hours, catering to all students’ schedules, even the numerous night-owls.
Additionally, students who are abroad would be able to vote for the first time. Election results could be available immediately after ballots closed, thus avoiding counting and recounting of votes. A process that is currently tedious and error-prone can be done by a computer, so long as the work of the computer is eventually double checked. Many large universities have already shifted to online elections, proving that it is a safe and reliable option.
The best option for better voter turnouts at Union would be to combine both traditional forms of voting and online voting. The old-fashioned voting booths and friends sitting at tables undoubtedly attract students who are walking through Reamer without the intention of voting. However, with the added benefits of online voting, we can reach out to more students.
Student Forum would have to make a large effort to advertise the new form of voting for actual change to be implemented and with the help of a few Facebook status updates with links to the website, it is possible to have higher than ever voter turnouts. This is an important project, which should seriously be considered as it is a way to increases election participation as well as showcase Union’s willingness to evolve with changing times.