ASI should be responsible for increasing voter turnout

Sara Donchey
Illustration by Sara Donchey

While it may be the presidential primaries making national news this week, for SF State students, another important election period is slipping away.

With elections for student representatives fast approaching, past turnout indicates that students will once again forfeit their right to decide who controls nearly $4 million of their hard-earned money simply by not taking an interest in campus affairs.

Associated Students Inc. has an obligation to spearhead election outreach. Insular, unattended elections not only serve no purpose, but also do a disservice to students and ASI as an institution.

While this fact alone should be compelling enough to get students out and make their voices heard by voting, that is plainly not enough motivation. Last year, only about 11 percent of students turned out to vote.

That’s not fair representation. That’s a failure of the democratic model that elections aim for. It doesn’t seem that ASI is intentionally failing, though there are some obvious shortcomings. For example, the ASI fan page on Facebook has only 100 or so “likes,” and doesn’t even have a mention of the upcoming elections or candidate debates.

It’s also true that in recent years, ASI has made more of an effort than before to cement their foothold as a meaningful part of campus life. However, until more students start participating, it is absolutely ASI’s responsibility to do all in their power to fix this issue.

Unfortunately, the standard model of running a successful election simply doesn’t work on a college campus. This campus is a secondary institution for most. Students are much more likely to care about participating in forms of government in the “real world” as opposed to a campus they only visit for a few days a week. That means involvement and interest in campus issues has to be fostered instead of expected.

It is true that apathy among students is a hurdle that student government must overcome. If ASI’s job is to engage and represent students, then their primary challenge is to overcome that hurdle. If elections aren’t having the effect they were designed for, it’s up to ASI to come up with new strategies. Events on campus partnered with an outreach strategy are a start. Communicating with and involvement with campus organizations and activism movements is another way to create a truly representative experience.

Obviously, plastering fliers around campus and hosting elections that no one shows up to is not a good way of engaging apathetic students.

The current candidates still have time to foster this engagement. Get out there, talk to students. Talk to Occupy SFSU. Talk to SQE. Talk to the organizations that line Malcolm X Plaza every day. Bring in those people. Get them out to vote. For the current ASI representatives, use your existing tools. You have a Facebook page, post information about the elections on that page. Ask the University to help you by sending an email alert to students about the upcoming elections. Use the campus events you sponsor to raise awareness of what you do and how vital student involvement is in your process.

Instead of just telling students to get out and vote, tell them why they should.