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This year, only 14% of the student body voted in the AS election: what gives?

Percentage of Western Students that voted in the 2019 AS election. // Graphic by Emma Toscani

By Madison Morris

The Associated Student elections came and went, securing victories for seven students. Although the Western student body is around 15,170, only 14% of students voted in the AS election this year.

That’s not an insignificant amount of students voting — 1,081 voters, according to AS election coordinator Ina LaGrandeur — but what’s going through the minds of the rest of the 14,089 students who didn’t vote?

Some students didn’t know the election was even happening.

“I have some friends who didn't vote, and I think the reason that they didn't vote is just because they forgot to,” Kassidy Haluska, a fourth-year environmental science major, said. “It's not on the forefront of everyone's minds all the time, especially if you're not involved and don't have a lot of friends in student government.”

Some participating students said that they were graduating this year and that they didn’t see a point in voting.

Katie Dynes, a second-year human services major at Western, didn’t vote either. “I didn’t vote because it didn’t seem like it was important for me to do so,” Dynes said. “I’m honestly not sure what the AS officers do for students and Western as a whole. I read the posters up outside the library, but I didn’t feel a strong enough pull to any of them to vote.”

Interacting with AS candidates face-to-face can be invaluable to running an election, but with campus being closed due to COVID-19, students had less opportunities to interact with AS candidates face-to-face.

This had a small but noticeable impact on the vote count; according to the AS office, the voter percentage dropped a little more than 1% from 15.1% of the student body voting last year.

Nate Jo, Nicole Ballard, Nora Harren, Ranulfo Molina, Sargun Handa, Carson Brock and Keenan Kaemingk were all elected to the AS for the 2020-21 school year. Jo was elected AS president, Ballard as Vice President for Governmental affairs, Harren as Vice President for Sustainability, Molina as Vice President for Diversity, Handa as Pro-Tempore, Brock as Vice President for Student Services and Kaemingk as Vice President for Activities.

Jo, a second-year philosophy, political science and economics major, encourages that students vote.

“I love how engaged and active Western students are in terms of voicing their concerns,” Jo said. “I think that if you're going to be talking about the things that need to be changing, you should be part of the solution, which means voicing your opinions by electing the people who actually work with university administrators to change those things.”

Incentive to vote can also include supporting friends in student government, according to Haluska.

“My number one reason for voting was just to support my friends that were running in the election,” Haluska said. “But I try to vote in every AS election because I think it allows you to have some say in the way that Western does things.”

No matter a student’s justification for voting, Jo hopes that voters recognize the power of their vote. “I think the biggest reason for disengagement at Western is because students don't believe that their vote makes a difference,” Jo said. “If you don't think that your vote is actually going to change anything, well, then it's not worth it. The truth is that every vote counts.”

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