Officials say new ASUSU campaign rules didn’t affect turnout
Published: Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 5, 2013 13:03
Handshakes were frequent, pats on the back were given among opponents and victory parties were held last week as USU students decided and voted on student body representatives for the 2013-2014 school year, but the number of voters in the ASUSU general elections was down significantly from 2012.
There were 3,890 students who voted in the general election this year. In 2012, 5,272 students cast a ballot. Some members of the election committee believe this stems from this being the first year since 2010 where no initiatives appeared on the final ballot.
“In my opinion, this is primarily because we did not have any fee increases, referendums or initiatives that were on the final ballot,” said Abigail Kingsford, ASUSU public relations director. “We did have a higher turnout in our primary elections than we did last year. I think the reason why we had a higher turnout in the primaries this year than we have in the past is because we had more candidates than we have in the past.”
There are a lot of factors influencing voter turnout each year, according to Academic Senate President Jordan Hunt. Students are less likely to vote in an election when there aren’t any big initiatives on the ballot.
Last year’s campaigning for the Aggie Health and Wellness Center and the Aggie Recreation center was extensive, Hunt said. Many students showed up to express their point of view and voice their support or contempt for those initiatives. This year, there weren’t any such proposals drawing student concern.
Revisions were made to election bylaws in December. Rules were instituted forbidding “couponing” – a practice in which candidates hand out campaign fliers printed on coupons to local businesses. At the time the changes were made, members of the bylaws committee didn’t know what effect the change would have on voter turnout.
The committee is now confident the changes to the bylaws didn’t directly affect the number of voters.
“I don’t think bylaws were a determinant of voter turnout,” Hunt said. “I have not heard of anyone who didn’t vote because they didn’t get a coupon.”
With elections now over, the committee will begin reviewing and determining what changes worked well and what needs to be further amended, Hunt said.
Riley Bradshaw, ASUSU engineering senator and elections committee member, said he felt this year’s elections went much smoother than in the past, but there is always room for improvement.
“I think the changes we made were a step in the right direction at the very least,” Bradshaw said. “The process will always be hindered by the general apathy of our student body in regards to its student government, but I think we are making progress.”
Bradshaw, who ran three times before securing office, said changes to the bylaws were overdue.
“It had been a while since the bylaws had been touched and we’ve now placed them on the table for discussion,” Bradshaw said. “I think that over the next year or two we will continue to see changes that make elections a more satisfying — or at least less painful — experience for both candidates and voters.”
Kingsford agreed progress has been made but knows there are still some changes that need to be implicated. She plans to meet with the elections committee in the near future to make changes and prepare for next year.
“I think that the changes that we made this year made for a better experience for both candidates and constituents in the elections process,” Kingsford said. “There were a few things that we would like to see changed as we saw that they posed more problems during the elections process.”
Bradshaw said any changes made are always “a work in progress” and the committee went into this year’s elections realizing many of the changes made to the bylaws were an experiment.
“We will definitely be meeting again — likely multiple times — over the rest of the semester to review and revamp,” Bradshaw said. “Those of us on the committee took special note of how things went and already have some ideas. If things didn’t turn out the way we hoped, we’ll make some changes and try again.”