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Voter turnout in AS elections still below average

The voter turnout rate for the 2015 Associated Students elections increased slightly this year, after declining for the last few years.

Voter turnout was at 8.2 percent this year, up from approximately 8 percent last year.

However, that percentage is still well below the national average of 16 percent turnout for student government elections at other universities, AS Communication Director Josie Ellison said.

The Western Front reached out to AS President-elect Belina Seare and AS Elections Coordinator Mayra Guizar but they did not comment in time for publication.

Ellison said low voting rates is an issue, and described a need for actively working toward increasing participation in the future.

“Voter turnout on this campus is definitely pretty low and I think it is reflective of a much bigger problem that the AS is going to have to work on a lot next year,” Ellison said.

Ellison said members of the AS will be working on making sure they are actually representing students and increasing awareness of what the organization does, as well as the opportunities students have to get involved.

Junior Steven Ouzts said he did not vote and does not really care about AS elections.

“I know that [the AS] has to be doing something important that’s been affecting me, but I literally do not know what they have been doing,” Ouzts said. “If I got to know what they actually did, then I would care a lot more about the elections and I would probably vote.”

Students Brian Maine and Kyla Sumpter also said they did not vote in the elections.

“I wasn’t informed enough,” Sumpter said. Maine added he wasn’t even sure how to vote.

At Western, voter turnout has dropped dramatically in recent years. Eight years ago, voting participation was at about 30 percent, Ellison said. Voter turnout was at 22 percent in 2012 and 16 percent in 2013, according to a previous Western Front article. 

When it comes to voter engagement, Ellison said access to candidate information and information about the AS as a whole determines rates of participation, and apathy on the part of the students is not necessarily responsible for such low rates.

“I don’t think it is students not wanting to vote,” Ellison said. “I just think we aren’t giving them the knowledge they need on why they should vote.”

Ellison said the decrease in voter turnout has been a recent trend across college campuses in Washington State.

A study done by the Eastern Education Journal found that voter turnout for student government elections has been sizably lower than turnout in national elections, and the lowest rates were among public universities.

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