Most colleges across the country deal with a problem of getting students out to vote in student government elections.
According to a 2005 University of Iowa study that examined 94 schools, the vast majority received less than 25 percent of voter turnout. USA Today reported in 2012 that low student voter turnout is “a common problem” throughout the country.
Two years ago, 6 percent of the student body voted for former Student Body President Ray Smeriglio and his campaign ticket TU Believe. Last year, 17 percent of the student body voted for current Student Body President Ryan Rinaldi and Future TU. Rinaldi and his Future TU running mates were aiming for a 10 percent voter turnout.
Temple Student Government’s power lies in the number of students who vote, Rinaldi said. If more students vote, then TSG is able to leverage and negotiate with the Board of Trustees and administration more effectively.
“I think the turnout you get in a student government election gives that team a different level of a mandate,” Rinaldi said. “Student government’s power really lies within the mandate that you receive when you’re elected.”
Rinaldi and TSG Elections Commissioner Gaelen McCartney are hoping for a quarter of the student body to vote in this election. Nearly 10,000 students would have to vote based on 2014 enrollment statistics, and McCartney thinks it’s an attainable goal.
“I think that 25 percent is a really nice goal because that’s a quarter of the students who participated and wanted their voice heard,” McCartney said. “With four tickets it’s definitely a reachable percentage.”
Both McCartney and Rinaldi are hopeful that the four teams running will yield higher numbers of voters than past years. Three tickets ran in 2010, which was the last time more than two tickets entered the election.
“The positive side of having four tickets is the fact that these four tickets are going to reach more students than two tickets could,” McCartney said.
Rinaldi said “grassroots campaigning” gives the candidates the opportunity to hear from different kinds of organizations throughout the university.
“Regardless of where these campaigns started, campaigning gives them the opportunity to go and meet so many diverse groups and talk to them about their issues and their problems, but also talk about their successes and what they do,” Rinaldi said.
The amount of outreach done by the campaigns is evident in the number of endorsements from student organizations the groups have collectively garnered, which totals more than 40, McCartney said.
At uvote.temple.edu, prospective voters can review the platforms and candidates to be as up-to-date and as educated as possible on their policies.
“We want you to vote, but we want you to read the platforms and understand the teams and differences between the teams,” Rinaldi said.
Jonathan Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jonnygilbs96.