Campus democracy: cast your vote

Voter turnout lower at TRU than UBC, UBCO, UVic and UAlberta last year

Jessica Klymchuk, News Editor Ω

Nominations for the TRUSU general election are open until March 14. Campaigning begins on March 17 and polling will take place on March 26-27. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

Nominations for the TRUSU general election are open until March 14. Campaigning begins on March 17 and polling will take place on March 26-27. Jessica Klymchuk/The Omega

It’s election time. Students head to the polls on March 26-27 to select their student union representatives for the 2014-2015 academic year. But will you participate?

Last year, TRU saw a lower voter turnout for the student union election than the University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus (UBC) and Okanagan campus (UBCO), the University of Victoria (UVic), Simon Fraser University (SFU) and the University of Alberta (UAlberta).

Most student union elections attract between 10 and 20 per cent of students, but numbers are higher at schools where online voting is available, reported The Phoenix in March 2013. Student unions at UBC, SFU, UAlberta and UVic use an online voting mechanism, but TRUSU does not.

Numbers also tend to be higher when more than one slate is running and positions are highly contested. A significant increase in voter turnout generally indicates a higher stakes election.

Voter turnout for the TRUSU general election dropped last year, with 7.5 per cent of the 7,000 eligible students casting a vote. In 2012, 10.4 per cent of the 7, 090 eligible students voted.  But in 2011, when 44 candidates ran, TRU saw an 18 per cent turnout.

Comparably, UBC Okanagan had 8,157 eligible voters for the UBCSUO election in 2013 and yielded a 10.5 per cent voter turnout. In 2012, 25 per cent of eligible students voted but less than seven per cent did in 2011, as reported by The Phoenix.

SFU’s SFSS election had an 11 per cent voter turnout in 2012 and 23.4 per cent turnout in 2011.

Several Western Canadian university students have already elected student representatives for the coming academic year.

UAlberta’s UASU 2014 election had a 19.9 per cent voter turnout, as reported by The Gateway on March 6. In 2013 it saw a 22.1 per cent of eligible student voters at the polls.

UBC’s AMS election had a 22.4 per cent voter turnout this year and a 43.9 per cent turnout in 2013.

UVic’s UVSS election had a 17.08 per cent voter turnout this year, while 18.83 per cent of the students voted last year.

TRUSU’s electoral committee was unable to provide comment on election participation before press time, but 2012-2013 TRUSU president Dustin McIntyre’s post-election comments in 2013 revealed the union was happy with the election, despite the drop in voters.

Nominations for the TRUSU 2014 general election are open until March 14, with the campaign period opening March 17. There are 13 positions for election: four executives, five advocacy representatives and four directors at large.

Last year, the position for vice president internal, Aboriginal representative, women’s representative and directors at large were contested. This participation was up from 2012 when there was no race for any position.

This year at UBCO, three positions were uncontested and the largest category had five candidates. At UVic, where there are 16,707 eligible voters, over twice as many as TRU, one position went uncontested this year.

None of the members of the current board are commenting on their experience with TRUSU until March 17, as at least a couple of them will be involved in the candidate side of the election.

To nominate yourself you must pick up a nomination package from the TRUSU members desk and submit it before 4 p.m. on March 14. Candidates for advocacy representatives must belong to the constituency group they want to represent, according to the TRUSU website. Voting takes place on March 26-27 and the newly elected board takes office May 1.

With files from Devan Tasa.