Only 436 students out of 6,000 voted last week at the Student Senate elections.
The number of ballots cast is down 195 votes in comparison to last year.
“We had a pretty good voter turnout, a little under 7 percent. But, I guess that was a little disappointing,” said Elizabeth Whitman, the chair of the Student Senate election committee.
Candidates for commuter and resident seats ran uncontested, with one resident seat still vacant. At-large positions were the only contested races.
The Senate is working to increase student participation in the voting process. It is evident in recent years that the number of participating voters is on the rise. In 1999 less than 300 students voted, which means the number more than doubled last year.
The Senate would like to see around 1,000 ballots cast each year.
“I think last year the campus was a little more active. I think the students feel a little disconnect as to what’s going on right now, and that’s a problem on both ends,” said Senate Chair Ryan Anderson.
Students expressed a feeling of detachment from the Senate and the election process.
Emily Courtemanche had “no clue” who was running for office or that the elections were even scheduled for last week.
“I’m not going to vote for anyone whose background I don’t know. It would just be guessing. I don’t even know their names or what they look like,” said Courtemanche.
Terrell Lowry is a freshman transfer student who lives on campus. She too missed the elections.
“I think that a lot of students are unaware of the election. Posting candidate names and positions would be helpful so students can be informed ahead of time so we can form an opinion before the elections start,” Lowry said.
Eric Smith, a junior psychology/sociology major who lives on campus, also expressed dismay at not knowing when the elections took place.
“I knew the elections were coming up because people were running around asking students to sign nomination forms,” Smith said. “But I haven’t seen anything about the actual elections. I never see a senator walking around shaking hands and talking about what they do. And that seems to me to be a very valid thing to be doing.”
Heidi Carlson, a sophomore social work major and commuter student, didn’t know the elections were scheduled but voted when she saw the table in Luther Bonney on the Portland campus.
“It took me by surprise, but I was glad that I was able to vote. I think that the Senate’s interest in helping students is very important and they’re doing a good job,” said Carlson.
Carlson felt that advanced notification of the elections would have helped her in preparation in casting her vote. She did not recognize all of the names on the ballot and had to read the biographical posters to familiarize herself with the candidates. She wished that the candidates had campaigned more.
The senate tried to increase communication with the student body during election time with several promotional tactics: they created and hung posters with candidate biographies on both campuses, placed a full-page nomination application in The Free Press, posted information on the University’s Listserv, posted the election dates on the events board, invited faculty and staff to help run the election tables, and candidates canvassed both campuses.
Judy Ryan, vice president of the Division of Student Development, was one of a few administrators who staffed the election tables.
Ryan said she has participated in the elections for years and tries to encourage students to vote.
“I loved it,” Ryan said about staffing the table. “It was the best thing. It was a great way to talk with students.”
Anderson acknowledged that even with these promotional steps taken there is a lack of preparation. He stressed the need to begin working on the election process in January, directly after winter break. That way students can be better informed about candidates.
“We need to network with the students,” said Anderson. “A lot of us have a lot of other leadership services to work so we don’t have a lot of extra time to work [on the elections]. Lots of public service and lots of public relations, that’s how you do it. We need to attack this right after winter break.”
Still, several students express a lack of interest in student politics altogether.
“As a commuter student it’s hard for me to get seriously involved with politics with work and classes going on,” said Carlson.
Courtemanche said that she would not vote this year because she doesn’t know the candidates. But she also admits that she also has no intentions of voting next year.
“Personally, I’m pretty disconnected from the University so I really don’t get into it and won’t,” said Courtemanche.
“I hope that next year’s Senate develops new ways to get the word out about
elections,” said Anderson.
Staff Writer Sherry Whittemore can be contacted at: [email protected]
Harry C. Wright III
Kenneth Ryder III
Leah Marie Wentworth
Laurie Quirrion (Quirrion beat out Rick Nadeau 187 to 176)