Opinion: Why ASU students don't vote in USG elections

Lack of competition and student outreach in USG elections causes low voter turnout

It’s no secret that an incredibly small number of students typically vote in ASU's USG elections. This year, less than 2,000 votes accumulated among all four ASU campuses, resulting in the lowest voter turnout in any USG election over the past 8 years. 

While there are numerous factors that contribute to low voter turnout, including the fact that individuals aged 18-29 make up the lowest voting demographic in the country, an overall lack of awareness about what USG is and does along with a low amount of competition are two of the most significant reasons. 

“I don’t think many students know too much about USG and what they do,” said Tina Giuliano, a State Press politics reporter. “In high school, student government takes care of a couple of things, like homecoming and prom. In college, students don’t realize that USG has meetings with Michael Crow and helps decide on tuition and fee increases.” 

USG is a powerful campus organization that influences a lot of ASU decisions and holds a massive budget, upwards of $2 million every year from student program fees. The student body must become more proactive with USG in order to ensure that students’ needs are being met and quality representation is being elected into office. 

However, many students do not understand what USG really does, and that's a problem. These representatives are in charge of where some of our tuition dollars go, and without a high voter turnout, there's no we can ensure we've got the best candidates possible representing the student body. 

Some of the organization’s responsibilities include providing funding for clubs, deciding on tuition and fee increases, running the Bike Co-Op and Safety Escort programs and representing students to ASU administration and Arizona government. 

“I think that there were issues in getting election information to our organization internally, and it prevented us from marketing the campaigns adequately,” said health innovation major Jackson Dangremond, president of USG Downtown. “We as an organization should be tabling before applications for the election process even open so people have enough time to be informed about the process and decide whether or not they want to vote.”

Beyond a lack of institutional knowledge, another reason why students did not vote in the latest election may be due to a lack of competition among candidates. On the Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses, each presidential candidate, along with their vice presidential candidates, ran unopposed. 

This in itself is a problem simply because it leaves students without an option over who represents them. And many students may be left wondering what the point of voting at all is when they already know who is going to win the election.

“Only having three senators run for election this year hurts the executive office, specifically at Downtown because when you only have a small number of senatorial candidates, not a lot of students from different colleges get involved,” Dangremond said.  

An increase in competition among candidates is a separate issue all together, but it may have engaged students more in debates and campaigning. When there are two or more people running for a position, there are higher stakes and more inclination to work harder during the campaign process.

This is not to say that anyone in USG embodies any form of laziness. In fact, USG across all four campuses works incredibly hard to ensure that students are receiving quality and affordable education while engaging in fun activities and voting on campus. 

“The reason I think it was so low is because people were just not interested since there was no competition. Tempe had one presidential candidate, so did Downtown. The rest of the campuses had two tickets, and they had a higher voter turnout," Giuliano said.  

More students should become aware of USG’s roles and responsibilities in order to become more informed about campus life, tuition and fee proposals, and university affairs overall. If students were able to learn more about USG and could see more competition among candidates, they may be more inclined to vote in the next election cycle. 

Editor's Note: The author is a senate intern for USG-Tempe.

Reach the columnist at amsnyde6@asu.edu or follow @AnnieSnyder718 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

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