ASI optimistic about voter turnout

Maikalina Madali

As spring student-government elections approach, Associated Students Inc. plans to increase voter turnout through the multiple events and campaigns in the coming weeks.

ASI’s voter turnout goal this semester is 18 percent, which is 5 percent higher than last year’s 13 percent turnout in elections.

“Since there are no controversial measures on the ballot this year, we expect that around the same percentage will come out to vote,” said ASI Marketing Manager Reuben Greenwald. “We are launching a new campaign which will hopefully bring more voters to the polls. Because of this, we are aiming for a 5 percent increase.”

The expectation is 4,777 students out of the spring 2012 census headcount of 26,543 students eligible to vote on April 24-25.

Every year, ASI attempts to inform students of the importance of voting. However, the small percentage of voter turnout has shown little increase.

Students have shown little participation over the past eight years with a low of 6 percent to a high of 14.2 percent.

Compared to the 52 percent turnout of the national voting-eligible population in the 2008 presidential elections, Sac State is far from matching that caliber of participation.

Whether they know a candidate or have a true concern for the representatives on the ASI board, students have their own motives for voting.

“Last year I voted because we knew someone who was in the running,” said Shirley Nguyen, a senior business major. “Maybe I’ll do it this semester if I look at the candidates and like one of them. But right now, I don’t know anyone.”

Another reason students voted was to earn money for a club or organization in accordance with the club ballot option.

The club ballot is supported by the Campus Organization Ballot Revenue Policy – a program awarding clubs and organizations $2 for every vote accredited toward them.

“I voted because there was someone running from my organization,” said senior business major Edgar Gee. “Each vote for that person earned my organization $2. I guess that’s a way they draw in students.”

However, there are students who vote to be a part of the process and have a say in who will be representing them in the ASI student-government.

“I vote because I want my voice to be heard. I have an opinion along with everyone else,” said Tracey Potts, a junior psychology major. “I’m only one person. But if I speak up, along with everyone else, we can all be heard.”

The 2011 elections fell short of ASI’s goal of 20 percent. The ASI Election Planning Group decided on a goal of 18 percent turnout this year hoping students become more interested through the events and campaigns.

“Our campaign that we are launching this year is ‘Make Your Mark,’” Greenwald said. “It is important for the student body to know that their votes affect them directly. They are choosing officials who will serve on behalf of them.”

The campaign slogan will be plastered all over campus with a-frames, shirts, digital screens and posters.

A few events are scheduled in order to generate excitement and interest before the polls open.

To kick off the election, ASI is holding a “Coffee and Candidates” event offering students the opportunity to get to know the candidates on Thursday.

As a follow up, the “Spring Fling” event on Friday will be held in the Library Quad, which will include music, games, food and another chance to meet the candidates.

“Marketing and our elections officer have endured to promote elections through many means,” said ASI President Laura Gonzalez, a senior government and women’s studies major. “We as board members have committed ourselves to promoting it in our classroom presentation, joint councils and students in committees.”

ASI is pushing to promote what it represents and the responsibilities it carries. ASI believes a majority of the students are unaware of what ASI board members have a say in.

“These students sit on various campus committees and help make decisions about everything from what the general education requirements will be, what campus fees will go into effect, what new services the campus will provide and even what food gets served on campus,” Greenwald said. “They work closely with faculty and administrators and bring your voice to the table.”

For the 2011-12 year, ASI was provided with $6.6 million to contribute to the programs it supports.

Sac State programs such as Peak Adventures, KSSU Radio, the Children’s Center, Safe Rides, the Aquatic Center, Accounting Services and the Student-Government itself, are all under ASI’s financial obligations.

“The personal is political. So, if there is a fee increase that will benefit you as a student and your experience, a vote will reflect that,” Gonzalez said.

In creating student awareness of these commitments and the empowerment of voting, ASI members believe every vote makes a difference in how future decisions will be made.

“By not voting, you are missing an opportunity to state your opinion,” Gonzalez said. “It is important for students to vote because a vote represents a voice.”

Maikalina Madali can be reached at [email protected].