New TRUSU board must address low voter turnout on campus

votemore

At just 9.4 per cent for this election, turnout has to improve and students must be more engaged

First of all, congratulations to the new TRUSU board elected last week. There are some new faces, some incumbents and many who tried their hand at student politics for the first time. I hope that regardless of the results, it was a valuable experience for everyone.

In the end, the Your Vote=Your Voice slate swept the election, taking every last seat at the table. Unfortunately, many students decided not to use their voice in this election, and I don’t think it was for a lack of trying on either slate’s side. I ran into more than a few candidates on campus in the run up to the election and most candidates did what they could to make themselves visible on campus with limited resources.

But with voter turnout at 9.4 per cent of our 8,384 eligible voters and a history of turnouts nearly as bad, and sometimes worse, there’s a problem here that needs to be addressed by those just elected.

Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling.

First, how about another polling station? TRUSU’s boardroom is a fairly good, visible place for students who are in the CAC to vote, but many never venture over to that part of campus, except to get their bus pass or buy books once or twice a year. It’s not really much of a thoroughfare. The new board needs to look into adding another polling station in Old Main. With a place to vote right on student street, passersby will add significantly to the vote count and greatly improve visibility.

Second, let’s look at online voting. Other universities are doing it and their voter turnout is better for it. Making students care about the election is difficult – I understand that. But making them walk across campus to engage in the election is even harder. It’s 2015. Why aren’t we casting ballots with the click of a mouse?

Third, we need to improve signage. It’s an expense, and no one likes expenses, but the union has to spend a little to improve General Election awareness. A big banner on Student Street, some large posters in unusual places, etc. – there are a lot of very creative, marketing-oriented students here on campus who could come up with some killer ideas for this. Let’s hear from them.

Finally, we need a longer timeline. The campaign period for the General Election this year was just nine days, not counting the two days when the election is on. That’s hardly enough time for most students to learn half the candidates’ names, let alone figure out what they’re all about. Campaign time should be increased to at least two weeks.

We also might want to think about adding a series of quick debates for competing executive candidates, in addition to the all-candidates forum we have now, which is perhaps less adversarial than it should be.

Hopefully the new board will not only recognize their responsibility and the problem of low voter turnout, but also make and execute plans to act against it.

Best of luck in 2015-16 to all of you.