Juniors Jesse Doran and Patrick Eckroth debated voting accessibility and issues involved with running for Associated Students Vice President for Governmental Affairs. This position acts as a liaison between the AS and the University Relations division, the city and county governments, the State of Washington, as well as the U.S. federal government.
Doran, an environmental studies major, said his platform focuses on reducing tuition, cancelling student debt and living wage jobs for all students and graduates.
Patrick Eckroth, an environmental and energy policy major, is planning on looking at structural and policy changes that would make the AS more accessible and inclusive if he is elected.
“Right now, there are a lot of barriers that exist,” Eckroth said.
Candidates were asked how they would plan to expand voter registration and increase voter turnout. Eckroth, who has worked with Western Votes, said the voter registration drive can’t do much more because of budget restrictions, but that he believed getting people excited about specific topics could be a better strategy to get people to register.
“I think we can do a lot more issue-based voter registration and ‘Get Out the Vote’ efforts,” Eckroth said. “The same thing with a lot of other programs in the Associated Students that represent different communities on campus. I think they all deserve the same ability to get their students to vote.”
Doran said that while Western registered more voters than all other public universities in Washington state combined, voter turnout for the AS elections was at seven or eight percent in 2014, showing that the AS has a lot of growth to do.
“The political apathy that we see on campus is a result of a failure of the AS to connect with the student body in a meaningful way,” he said.
Doran said he hopes to politicize the AS more in an effort to get better voter turnout, but wants to avoid party divisions and instead focus on platforms that students can work towards and discuss.
The candidates were also asked how they would ensure students without connections to the legislative affairs council, students in charge of formulating positions, and policies of the AS related to legislative activities, would be represented. Both had similar answers involving improved outreach
“As a student coming from outside of AS, I think connecting with the larger student body is my strong suit,” Doran said. “My plan is to have different outreach programs. I’m thinking about a club, an AS outreach program and then a general outreach program.”
Eckroth, who has been involved in drafting some of the agendas for the Legislative Affairs Council, said that he believes basic outreach is a good idea but would like to see a town hall or forum developed where students can voice their concerns.