Students uninformed about upcoming elections

Every year, the student government elections turn out to lack candidate and platform variety, student body interest, and student involvement. This year has the potential to be different, but the candidates and the elements of student government responsible for publicizing the elections have their work cut out for them.

In the notorious tradition of recent student government elections, this year’s election run-up got off to a bad start. While the date for the elections was originally set to be April 9, those responsible for facilitating the process neglected to publicize the event to attract and inform candidates. Furthermore, the Elections Committee faltered by failing to make information and the required candidate petition forms available. As a result, only a handful of student senate candidates were set to run.

The Elections Committee pushed back the date and managed to make the important information and resources available; the candidate pool quickly filled. This year’s election is somewhat remarkable in that respect, compared to those of the past few years. There are four tickets running for the student body president/student body vice president office, four candidates for the student body vice president of finance office, and 35 candidates running for office in Student Senate. Last year, only about 20 candidates were on the ballot.

Still, the date-change undermines the elections. If last year’s elections — which were also postponed until after Carnival — is any indication, turnout levels are likely to be dismal. Last year, a mere 1287 students (about 16 percent of the eligible student body) cast votes for student body president. In 2004 and 2005, more than 2100 voters cast ballots. It’s too late to do anything about the date change, but the candidates and the Student Senate Communications Committee need to work hard to avoid another embarrassing year.

The range of candidates could be the saving grace for election turnout. With more variety in the candidates than in recent years — mostly thanks to the graduate student ticket of Serge Egelman and Joe Arasin — more students may have a chance to hear about the elections. Making the elections successful isn’t the sole responsibility of the candidates, though. The Student Senate needs to work hard this week to get students into the voting mindset.

More importantly, student government needs to find a way to make sure future elections don’t suffer from the same problems next year. First, the elections are mandated to take place during March or April; a policy prohibiting elections from immediately following Carnival would go a long way. More importantly, student government and the Elections Committee must communicate with the student body in a timely fashion. They should advertise the elections early and make sure potential candidates can find the information and resources they need by keeping the elections website up-to-date.

The number of candidates running in this year’s elections gives reason to believe that students are taking a greater interest in their student government — student government just needs to make sure it isn’t standing in the way.