The average voter turnout in Mali’s general election is 21.3 per cent, the lowest of any country. National officials blame low turnout on a lack of faith in democracy and the repeated threat of suicide bombings. So what’s UVic’s excuse? In 2014, the voter turnout for the UVic Students’ Society (UVSS) elections was 17.08 percent.
Even if there’s some form of sectarian violence that I haven’t heard about, students should still be able to vote online, right? Maybe they’ve missed the posters, signs, banners, emails, and speakers who interrupt class time to implore students to come out and vote.
Since free cotton candy, pens, and a sense of community togetherness don’t seem to be enough, I have some ideas to increase voter turnout. They’ve tried the carrot, but what about the stick?
Imagine you’re in the library. You hit print on a document, and it prompts you to vote before you’re able to do so. You’d probably vote, wouldn’t you? No? Say you hop on the #14 and swipe your card. Instead of waving you through, the bus driver gives you an angry look. He says that you have to vote before you’re allowed to sit down, and he hands you a ballot and a pen. You probably wouldn’t think twice at that point. No, no, you don’t have time to read the literature. There’s a line forming behind you. Just vote. That’s what’s important.
I think it’s time the UVSS elections stop being just an annoyance for students and start actively obstructing their lives. After all, why do things in half measures? Countries like China know that the right motivation really brings people to the polls, even when there’s only one candidate running.
All I know is that whatever they’re doing right now isn’t working. The UVSS all-candidates forum had 71 attendees confirmed on Facebook. That’s four audience members for every nominee.
Why the lack of interest? Maybe students don’t think they should have to pay for events they don’t attend, or services they don’t use. Maybe they think that if people want to see concerts and attend conferences they can pay for them personally. Considering that a 2013 referendum to raise the UVic special events fee by $2 per full-time student failed to pass, it would seem that at least a majority of 16 per cent of UVic’s eligible voters feel this way. Even Ariel Mishkin, the UVSS’s director of events, stepped down from the position this January. This seems odd, considering the promise of “more events and parties” by nearly half of the candidates in last year’s election.
Like car salesmen pushing undercoating, UVic knows that the measly $70 (roughly) they tack at the end of your tuition won’t be a deal breaker, but it is a significant sum of money. These student fees account for the UVSS’s entire $2.4-million budget. I understand this gives budding politicians a way to keep busy and looks great on their resumés come graduation. However, I don’t think they need my $70 to do that. If it were up to me, I’d put that money toward my crippling debt rather than one more email that I’m never going to read.