Student voter turnout in Temple Student Government elections has fluctuated within the past 18 years, with students casting 4,505 total executive votes in 2018, 2,755 in 2019, 280 in 2020 and 139 in 2021, according to TSG data.
Both the 2020 and 2021 TSG executive campaigns ran unopposed and during the COVID-19 pandemic. RenewTU, the sole executive branch campaign, won their race this year with a total of 139 votes, the lowest number of total executive votes in a span of 18 years, according to TSG data. The highest number of total executive votes in this time span, 5,198, occurred in the 2017 election.
Total executive votes refers to the number of votes received by any executive teams during that year.
After reaching its peak in 2017, student voter turnout in TSG elections largely decreased, according to TSG data.
John Haldeman, TSG elections commissioner and a senior global studies major, believes the COVID-19 pandemic, remote learning and a lack of competition in this year’s and last year’s election decreased student voter turnout, he wrote in an email to The Temple News.
“We did have a competitive Parliament race for the freshman seat in November that saw much higher turnout than the races that just occurred,” Haldeman wrote. “Overall, I think the past two years will look like outliers in the future, primarily due to [COVID-19] and this lack of competition.”
Votes for Parliament candidates have also decreased significantly since 2018, with 3,556 votes cast for Parliament candidates in 2018, 2,331 in 2019, 252 in 2020 and 141 in 2021, according to TSG data.
The Temple News examined possible reasons for this year’s low student voter turnout and the downward trend of student voter turnout in TSG elections.
STUDENT VOTER ENGAGEMENT
This year, the TSG elections committee reached out to students by hosting town halls and promoting the election on social media, Haldeman wrote.
Students used TSG’s online voting platform to vote this year for the executive campaign and Parliament candidates from April 6 to April 8, The Temple News reported.
Sainabou Jallow, a freshman economics major, didn’t vote in this year’s TSG election because she was not aware of the election.
Jallow believes TSG should continue to use social media but also reach out to Temple-related social media pages to increase student outreach. It will be easier for TSG to reach out to the student body once more students return to campus, she said.
“I had no idea about it, even though, like, I do follow the social media page,” Jallow said.
Student Body President-elect Bradley Smutek, a junior history major, will be inaugurated on April 26 alongside Vice President-elect Samantha Quinlan, a sophomore media studies and production major, and Parliament candidates, The Temple News reported.
Collaborating with student organizations and advertising elections on social media could help increase student engagement with TSG elections, Smutek wrote in an email to The Temple News.
For the second year in a row, TSG’s executive campaigns and Parliament candidates have run unopposed.
This year, RenewTU’s opponents, FireOwlsTU, dropped out of the race and endorsed RenewTU after two days of campaigning. Last year, BloomTU’s opponents, ListenTU, dropped out of the race after they alleged ethical violations against BloomTU, the current TSG administration, The Temple News reported.
Haajrah Gilani, a sophomore journalism major and speaker of Parliament, believes that there is a lack of Parliament candidates because many students do not know there are Parliament elections or prefer to be appointed to a seat by the speaker instead of running in an election, she said.
The speaker can appoint students to fill seats in Parliament, but Parliament leadership might get rid of the appointment process and instead make Parliament candidates run in a special election with freshman representatives that take place in the fall, Gilani said.
A majority of current Parliament members have been appointed, Gilani wrote in an email to The Temple News.
The 2020 and 2021 TSG elections, which had the lowest number of total executive votes in the last 18 years, both took place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Larice Mejia, a senior human resource management major and former vice president of external affairs for the current TSG administration, thinks voting in the 2020 TSG election was a low priority for students as they adjusted to remote learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
“If I wasn’t running and if I didn’t feel passionate about it at that time, I probably wouldn’t have been thinking about it either,” she added.
Jallow feels that the Class of 2024 freshmen are put at a disadvantage in learning about TSG because they are new to Temple and experienced campus, clubs, organizations in a remote setting, she said.
“I have been trying to like, branch out and see different things with Temple, but then again with COVID it’s not that easy considering to do everything online,” Jallow added.
Editor’s note: Samantha Quinlan is a freelance reporter at The Temple News. She played no role in the writing or editing of this story.
Haajrah Gilani is an Intersection Editor at The Temple News. She played no role in the writing or editing of this story.