Student voter turn-out still low

February 12, 2009 by  

The number or students who voted in the Kwantlen Student Assocation general election last week nearly doubled from last year. Despite those figures, the 555 students who did vote only make up about three per cent of the student population.

Chief Returning Officer Fred Schiffner has an idea why. “Quite frankly, I think it’s because there’s no longer any campaigning during the opening of the polls.”

Last year was the first time that campaigning was not allowed while people were voting. Prior to the rule being implemented, there was inappropriate campaigning going on “to the point of harassment” said Schiffner.

“Although I agreed with it at the time, because of the enormous difficulties we were having with controlling the campaign, I think that’s something that the board is going to have to look at — at bringing it back. When you get people out there campaigning while the polls are open, it encourages people to vote.”

He is confident that the directors will look at revoking that decision before the next election.

Nathan Griffiths, director of operations, agreed that the rule may be changed. “In formal conversations with other people on campus and executives, there’s just a general feeling that it will change.” 

Griffiths also agreed that this rule affects voter turnout, but added that there are other factors at play. He pointed out that student unions in general have low voter turnout. UBC, for example, has an average of eight-10 per cent of their students vote, said Griffiths.

Another factor is that Kwantlen doesn’t hold debates during the campaign. “It’s tough to communicate all the various different issues to students, especially on a multi-campus institution like ourselves. You can’t really do debates,” Griffiths said. 

“Schools like UBC often will have at least one, sometimes two debates for every executive position.” Without having them, it makes it difficult to reach students, he said. “There’s only one of me.”

But he is glad to see that student turnout is better than last year. “The fact that it’s gone up is positive, especially in Richmond. They rocked it.” Richmond accounted for nearly 75 per cent of all the votes.

“I think everybody out there, the people who were doing the campaigning did a great job and I think the students themselves did a great job voting and getting involved.”

Student turn out isn’t the only thing worth mentioning regarding the election results.

Last year, the majority of the multi-campus positions were won by acclamation, meaning students ran uncontested, and won by receiving more “yes” votes than “no” votes. This year, a few major positions had two candidates running against each other. Yet, all the incumbents kept their positions, even with the competition. 

Griffiths is glad to see more people running for positions within the KSA. “It means people are exited about the society and look to change stuff, too. I’m glad that people are getting involved.” 

Results highlights:

  • Nathan Griffiths kept his previous title of director of operations again, but won by only 32 votes.
  • Steve Lee, director of finance, was only 55 votes away from the candidate running against him.
  • Vanessa Knight also kept her title as director of events winning 290-173.
  • Derek Robertson, Director of External Affairs, along with Ashley Fehr, Director of Academic ran uncontested.
  • A notable win for Jennifer Campbell. Previously a Langley campus representative, she beat out incumbent Jennifer Mamchur in the Langley campus director position, receiving 19 out of 26 votes.

RELATED: Students speak: Did you vote?


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