Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

SGA elections turnout lower than last year

Posted on April 14, 2015 in News
By Zachary Searles

Late Monday afternoon, the results from this years student government elections were sent out by email, naming Rebecca Tanous for student body president and Matthew Creisher as vice president, winning by a margin of just 26 votes.

The newly elected Tanous expressed how excited and eager she was to get started.

“I’m really passionate about actually seeing changes and actually seeing action happen,” she said.

Tanous has been involved with student government for two and a half years and is currently serving as vice president until she is sworn in as president later this month.

“This is where I can have the most impact,” said Tanous. “It’s kind of just been a natural progression and this was my next step.”

Despite her leadership position at the SGA, Tanous said that she has no interest in pursuing politics after her college career.

“I’m not a politician,” said Tanous. “I’m really passionate about what I am involved in and right now I’m a USM student so I’m really passionate about what is happening.” According to Tanous her first order of business is to train other student leaders.

“First and foremost, we have these student leaders who are here to serve us and we need to use them more,” said Tanous.

According to the pamphlets laid out last week on the tables in the Brooks Center on the Gorham campus,Tanous wants to accomplish a lot. Tanous wants to look at the legislative side of the UMaine system and see what is most negatively affecting USM’s fiscal situation.

“We just had big cuts, we had a lot of student activism last year but that’s really tapered off,” said Tanous. “However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t still have the issue that UMO is getting around 50 percent of the funding equation and we’re only getting 20 percent. That still makes no sense in my mind.”

While Tanous believes that system level decisions played a key role in bringing USM’s budget to the state that it’s in, she also expressed that this was just part of the problem. The other negative factor is that system administrators might be siphoning too much money.

“There’s this other percent that is taken off the top and goes to people in offices that are working for our students but are already getting paid from other funds, so why are they taking some of our tuition dollars?” asked Tanous.

Tanous said she doesn’t agree with that mentality and thinks that it’s not indicative of an institution that put students first.

Tanous expressed that she would be very interested to see an audit to find out just how much is being taken out by the UMaine system.

“I think that is almost a bigger issue than the funding equation,” said Tanous.

In this year’s election there was a grand total of 345 ballots casted out of almost seven thousand students, so less than 5% of the student body participated in this year’s election. The voting numbers were even down from last year, when 452 students casted ballots.

Both Tanous and the director of student & university life Jason Saucier expressed their concern with how low voter turnout has been. “One of the biggest challenges is getting on student’s radar,” said Saucier.

There were some new strategies implemented this year to try and encourage students to get online and cast their vote. Email alerts were sent to all students, reminding them when the polls opened. A key factor in fostering student involvement was changing the day of the candidate debate from a Friday, when the Woodbury Campus center is virtually empty, to a Monday when it would be more busy. An increase in foot traffic and more convenient timing resulted in the candidates being exposed to more people.

“This year the voting process was not up to par,” said Tanous. “We had less people working on elections than usual, so we were really stretched thin.”

Tanous expressed desire not only to boost the voting numbers but to get students more interested and knowledgeable with all student government activities, projects and elections.

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