95 percent of SGA positions uncontested
Written by Jessie Hellmann, News editor Monday, 19 March 2012 16:35
USI's Student Government Association (SGA) will hold its election from March 26 to March 30, but uncontested positions and few students running mark the elections like years before.
Uncontested positions is when a candidate is not running against another person. During the 2011-2012 elections, out of the eight positions on the ballot, three were contested. This year, only one position is contested, the attorney general position.
Emily Severeid, SGA's current attorney general, contributes uncontested positions to students who are afraid of losing.
“I just think that a lot of people don’t like the idea of losing something,” she said. “So, they’re like, ‘well I’m going to run for something that’s safe because I don’t want to have to put any effort into campaigning and then lose.’”
Severeid said even though there will be no competition this year, SGA is still very happy with the number of applicants.
Although 95 percent of the positions are uncontested, more students have applied for positions than ever before, with 22 students running, she said.
For the 2011-2012 SGA election, 15 students ran for positions.
“We’re in a very good position, there just aren’t people contesting it,” she said. “Everyone is very very happy with who we have running and how filled the general assembly is going to be.”
She admits part of the reason students aren't voting is because of SGA’s poor marketing.
“I don’t think that we do a very good job of promoting the positions that we have open,” Severeid said.
Involved students and other SGA members are probably the only students who know about open positions, and SGA needs to do a better job at marketing them, Severeid said.
SGA also experiences low voter turnout during elections.
SGA uses email to distribute ballots to students, but this sometimes is not very effective.
Last year, 896 students voted, eight percent of the student population, and voter turnout has been under 10 percent for at least the past five elections, according to documents from the SGA office.
“A lot of people will just delete that email and not think about it twice,” Severeid said.
Severeid said polling stations in the UC East are a possibility for this year.
Butch Oxendine, the American Student Government Association's executive director, said SGA candidates running unopposed remains to be a common problem among universities but should not be at a school as big as USI.
“Ultimately, students have to think that student government matters in their lives, and if it doesn’t matter they don’t want to run because they don’t care,” Oxendine said.
Lack of SGA candidates shows the student government needs to work on how it is perceived by the students it represents, he said.
“It just says that student governments have not made themselves relevant to their peers,” Oxendine said. “You’ve got a ton of students. There should be multiple people running for every position there is."
SGA can fix the problem of few people running for positions by talking to students and reaching out, he said. This can draw more attention to the government and more people will become interested.
The issue of uncontested SGA positions coincides with lower voter turnout, Oxendine said.
When SGA positions like president are uncontested, students do not see the point in voting, Oxendine said.
“When you have multiple people running, your election turnouts are going to be higher,” Oxendine said. “If I’m the only one running, it’s a dictatorship. It’s like what’s the point? Why even have an election? It’s done.”
Oxendine also brings into question how effectively SGA is representing students if the voter turnout is so low.
“More people voting shows that student government actually represents students," Oxendine said. "Right now student government is representing 10 percent of the students. They can’t really make a legitimate claim that they are the campus wide reps because its 10 percent that voted.”
Stephanie Deig, SGA academic affairs Administrative Vice President and member of the SGA election committee, said she would love for voter turnout to double this election, but that is difficult with the demographic of USI’s students.
“It’s just the demographic that’s attracted to our campus, is to come and get your classes out of the way because a lot of people have to work, and they’ve got families,” Deig said. “That’s understandable, but that doesn’t mean elections aren’t important.”
Even though all but one of the SGA positions are uncontested, Deig said it is important for students to vote because candidates are required to gain 5 percent of the total votes during the elections. Candidates do not win by default. If candidates do not earn the position, interested students cannot fill out a vacancy application, and the SGA general assembly can vote the student in, or vote to not have the student in.
Students who participate in student government carry a lot of responsibilities, which is why some students are not running for positions, Deig said.
“President for example: the people who would normally run for president are kind of having to focus on grades,” Deig said. “It’s a weird mix of circumstances. (The presidency) was originally going to be contested, but life gets in the way, and it is a big commitment.”