While the SF State campus community consistently participates in statewide politics, its engagement in a democratic process much closer to home goes largely unnoticed by the student population.
Despite Associated Students, Inc. controlling nearly $4 million in student fees, when it comes to deciding who will control these funds, SF State receives low voter turnout. According to ASI’s official 2010 election results, 2,926 students—less than 11 percent—submitted their selections for president, vice presidents and college and class representatives.
For those students inclined to exercise their democratic rights, ASI elections are right around the corner. Campaigning has already begun, and will conclude with a debate and a four-day voting period.
“The low voter turnout makes me think a lot of students don’t care to vote,” said Yesenia Martinez, ASI vice president of external affairs. “They don’t know or don’t care. ASI can do a lot for the community, if students just knew. The individuals that come into office will make important decisions, financial decisions, program decisions and a lot of other decisions.”
According to Martinez, ASI aims to attract a voter turnout of 15 percent for the upcoming election period of March 12 to 16. One of the top goals of ASI this term has been to encourage students to vote not just in ASI elections, but all elections.
ASI has already begun to use social media, and will have tables in the quad and make classroom presentations during the voting period to encourage students to vote, according to ASI Health and Human Services Representative Alex Neylon. But, similar to Martinez, Neylon believes that students are not fully clued in about elections right now.
In order to incite students to vote, Neylon says that he would first ask students to identify the changes they envision for the campus.
“I would inform them that chances are, out of all the candidates running, there is a candidate who shares the same feeling, and if elected will have an opportunity to make those changes,” he said.
There are 23 registered candidates for 20 positions on the board of directors, but anyone may still run as a write-in candidate; that is quite frequently the case, according to Horace Montgomery, director of ASI programs and services. Currently, no one is running for the ethnic studies, education and senior representatives positions.
There are currently four vacant positions out of 20 on the board of directors.
“The ethnic studies and education representatives are [vacant typically] because the colleges are smaller,” Montgomery said.
There are three candidates running for president this year and at least two for all the other vice president positions, except for the vice president of internal affairs who is running unopposed. According to Montgomery, the president and vice president positions are typically competitive, while the other positions vary.
Candidates will debate in Malcolm X Plaza March 12 from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. so that students will have an opportunity to get to know their candidates before voting. The debate is mandatory for all the president and vice president candidates, according to the 2012 Elections Code.
To find out who the candidates are and what they care about before elections, students will have to attend the debate. For publicity purposes, candidates are prohibited from posting any campaign materials on walls, doors, plants, lamp posts, or garbage cans on campus. The Elections Code also prohibits them from using department bulletin boards or placing any materials in the residence community. Any students who violate any campaigning policies can be disqualified from the elections.
Polling places will be set up in Cesar Chavez Student Center and students will also be allowed to vote online.