The polls are open but voters slim, ASI elections lack interest

It’s election season at SF State, which means it’s time for students to execute their civic duty: Make signs, go campaigning, hit the polls and show pride in campus government. Right?

Probably not.

The polls are now open for the Associated Students Inc. student elections, but with many candidates running unopposed, this election is not as competitive as it was last spring.

However, candidates and current members of ASI are using this as an opportunity for outreach.

“I know some of us will win by default, but it’s not just about winning, it’s about how we campaign,” said Andrew Gutierrez, the ASI presidential candidate who is running unopposed. “We’re trying to get out there and talk to the students so they know who we are. That way we can be held accountable when we get into office.”

Some members of ASI attribute the lack of candidates to apathy.

“There’s a lack of interest or awareness,” said Travis Northup, former vice president of external affairs for ASI. “I’m not really sure what’s up with that.”

About 40 applications were submitted to run for the board’s 18 positions, making Gutierrez believe that the drop in candidates is partly due to support for his slate – Achieving Community Through Integrity, Openness and Knowledge.

But some students do not believe they were informed enough about the candidates to make a decision.

“It’s important to participate in these elections, but I feel like you need to know the people who are running to actually be able to vote,” said Muriel Eastman, communications major. “That’s why I’m not voting.”

Besides the candidates, a major issue in this election is a proposed referendum set to increase the $42 student fee that funds ASI by $12 over three years. The referendum would increase the fee $9 in the first year, $2 in the second and $1 in the third.

“I’m interested in students voicing their opinion on this,” Northup said. “I don’t necessarily agree with it, but without it, it could spell doom for ASI.”

The idea for an increase stems from cuts to ASI, such as lower enrollment and making summer session a part of the College of Extended Learning.

“We can’t really do anything about the CSU raising tuition, but student fees are something we can work with,” Gutierrez said. “I’m in support of it because it can be used to provide students with so many more services.”

With the loss of funding creating a situation where ASI becomes unsustainable and unable to provide monetary support to students, some find the increase to be necessary.

“It’s worth it,” said Margarita Gonzalez, an international relations major. “If it’s going toward students and it’s just a few more dollars, it’s not a big deal.”

Tuition increases and a possible cut of $500 million or more due to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget lead some to believe the fee increase is inappropriate.

“I personally don’t even see a lot of the money going toward ASI being reflected on the campus,” Eastman said. “I disagree with the increase and think it’s the wrong time to be asking for one.”

Gutierrez believes that students should vote not only to make their voices heard, but also to build a rapport with the candidates.

“If no one votes, it looks like there’s no student needs and I know that’s not true,” Gutierrez said. “There’s a lot of student demands on this campus. Students should know who the people who are representing them are. I hated this campus my first few years until I got involved and felt like I was able to do something.”

The polls close March 26. ASI ballots can be found online at sfsu.votenet.com/sfsu.