In an election of 37 student representatives for Temple Student Government Parliament, voter turnout was lower than its leaders expected. Only 1,102 out of more than 32,000 eligible full-time students voted in the two-day election.
This brought turnout to 3.4 percent, a sharp decline from the 12.7 percent turnout in March’s general elections. This marks the second year of declining voter turnout for TSG.
TSG broke a six-year record for highest voter turnout in 2015, with 17 percent of students turning out to elect former TSG president Ryan Rinaldi. After the success in 2015, TSG set its sights on 25 to 30 percent voter turnout for the 2016 general election, but fell short.
Despite the decline in the previous election’s turnout, TSG Elections Commissioner Noah Goff said in November that TSG was hoping for between 35 and 40 percent voter turnout for Parliament.
“Relative to the frankly over-optimistic projection I had at the beginning, [voter turnout] was really low,” Goff said.
He added that overall voter turnout for Parliament does not reflect the individual turnout for each seat. Since some seats were open to more students, they would have higher turnout than the overall average for Parliament, he said. This, however, was not the case. The School of Social Work, which has about 870 students enrolled according to Temple’s 2015 student profile, had 5.7 percent turnout. But the Fox School of Business, which enrolls more than 8,000 students, had 3.4 percent turnout.
“Looking at that yields better ideas of where to target the get-out-the-vote effort,” he said.
Some students said they never voted in the election because they didn’t know enough — or anything at all — about Parliament.
“I knew Parliament elections were going on,” said Will Poole, a freshman neuroscience major. “But I didn’t really know anything about them. I’m not exactly sure what Parliament even does.”
“I didn’t know about Parliament elections and I didn’t vote because of it,” said Joshua Litus, an undeclared sophomore in the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management. “Had someone told me about it, or if I had seen a banner somewhere, I probably would’ve. As a student, I think my voice counts as much as anyone else’s.”
For the week leading up to elections, candidates were able to campaign for seats in Parliament, but were held to a $25 spending limit for advertising. TSG held two “Meet the Candidates” events and shared voting information via social media.
“One idea we have was to hold a kind of branding workshop for the candidates, teaching them how to spread the word on their end,” said Kristina Del Mar, TSG’s promotions manager for Parliament. “TSG reaches a lot of people, and if candidates knew how to reach people, I think the word would get out more.”
She added that because Parliament will continue to get recognition, voter turnout “can only go up” in years to come.
“I do wish we were able to do more,” Goff said. “Obviously, there’s a limit in how much time TSG has to actually get out the vote. For an election that wasn’t within our normal election time and was in a shorter period, I’m actually happy with the voter turnout numbers.”
Amanda Lien and Julie Christie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @TheTempleNews.