Student Senate looks to increase voter turnout

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Dionne Smith/Photography Editor

Nick Schleh, Staff Writer

The Student Senate is working to increase voter turnout for the next election. A history of low participation may see a change with new methods for getting students involved in the election process.

Barrett Hess, the newly appointed elections commissioner, is working with the Public Relations Committee and the Student Government to implement new approaches to get students involved in the election process. In prior elections, the Dean of Students oversaw the election during a period of low turnout. Last semester, the election was conducted via an email survey that received approximately 80 votes, according to Hess. Hess, a philosophy major, said his role is to “facilitate the tabling, the planning of the elections, and to raise awareness of the elections.”

The Student Government has received funds to raise awareness amongst students to help combat low voter attendance. Berkeley Elias, of the Public Relations Committee, has allocated part of the funds to pay USM art students to creatively draw on whiteboards around campus with the place, time and duration of the election.

The duration of the voting period will be two days and the first 100 – 300 students to vote will receive special USM themed pop sockets for their smartphones. Voting in the election also automatically enters students into a raffle, where students will have the chance of winning a Kindle or $100 toward their next textbook.

“We wanted to make the prizes academic in nature,” said Hess. “We are trying to incentivize voting.” Demographically in national elections, people from ages 18-29 consistently have the lowest voter turnout according to Census.Gov.

Hess is remodeling how the election is conducted. There will be tables set up for two days on the Gorham and Portland campuses where students can cast their vote.

“We are also going to have two teams of two people, senators and volunteers, that are going to have ballots with them that are going around canvassing,” said Hess. The idea behind this active new implementation is that students are busy when on campus and might walk by the table without noticing what it is, but when personally engaged in conversation, the election is brought to them.

Hess got this idea after canvassing a few years ago during a governmental internship in Washington D.C. “I know it can be a little annoying if it’s for something you don’t really know about, but I think pretty much everyone is interested in raising the student activity fee and electing new senators” said Hess.

The election was originally going to be held on March 15 and 16, but the university was unable to provide the facilities required for tabling during those dates. This past week, Hess met with the elections commission to determine a new date for the election on April 3 and 4.

Currently, all of the candidates running have already been appointed a senator and are running for re-election. A major issue that the senators will be voting on after the election is the potential of having a spring concert, a common event held on campuses across the nation. The Student Government has been working closely with the finance committee to allocate the remaining funds to make the event happen.

Students interested in running in the election as a Student Senator or want to find out more information about the student government and their role on campus can visit https://usm.maine.edu/sga.

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