TSG voter turnout falls short of goal

Turnout this year dropped to 12.72 percent, after 17 percent of the student body voted in 2015.

Empower TU, consisting of Aron Cowen (left), Jai Singletary and Kelly Dawson, won this year’s TSG election with 32 percent of the student body vote. | JENNY KERRIGAN TTN

Voter turnout in last week’s Temple Student Government elections dropped after a record-high turnout was last year. Turnout was still ranked second-highest since TSG began tracking it in 2004.

Last week, students cast a total of 4,112 votes, resulting in a 12.72 percent voter turnout. This was 467 fewer votes than the 4,579 votes in 2015, which resulted in a 17 percent voter turnout, according to data provided by Director of Student Activities Chris Carey.

Data also showed voter turnout had been on a steady decline from 2009 until the 2015 elections. Before the dramatic spike in turnout in 2015, the elections from 2004 to 2014 had an average 2,572 votes cast each year. The highest was in 2009 with 3,945 votes and the lowest occurred in 2007 with 1,252 votes.

Last year, former Elections Commissioner Inella Ray told The Temple News TSG was aiming for a 20 percent voter turnout in the 2015-16 elections. This year, Elections Commissioner Gaelen McCartney set a goal of 25-30 percent voter turnout.

All four tickets canvassed on Main Campus during the two days of voting last week, asking students if they had already voted and if not, they handed out paperwork with the link that led to the voting website.

McCartney said party platforms could have had an effect on voter turnout.

“The interest level of students could have increased because the candidates pushed areas that are really important right now,” he said. “It could have brought people out to vote for that, but also caused them not to vote.”

McCartney added an increase in student population, and therefore eligible voters, could have also had an effect on turnout. Undergraduate enrollment increased 1.22 percent from 28,408 students in the 2014-15 academic year to 28,754 students in the 2015-16 academic year.

He said this year’s voter turnout of almost 13 percent still fell above the national average of 10-11 percent.

Temple, however, fell below the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Pennsylvania in voter turnout this year.

The Pitt News, the University of Pittsburgh’s student newspaper, reported a 15 percent voter turnout in its student government elections this year. Pitt has an undergraduate population of 17,694 students, about 61 percent of Temple’s undergraduate population. Pitt’s voter turnout increased from 11.8 percent last year, according to the Pitt News.

The University of Pennsylvania, which has 24,876 undergraduate students, had a 39 percent voter turnout in its 2015 Undergraduate Assembly elections, the Daily Pennsylvanian—the school’s student newspaper—reported. This year, turnout increased to 50.88 percent.

Tykee James, campaign manager for Empower TU, the ticket that won this year’s election, said the issues the candidates focused on were what encouraged students to vote.

“The debate the day after they announced platforms and the day before voting really helped [inform students],” he said.

James added the budget impasse in Harrisburg brought visibility to TSG because students wanted to know how the new government would work with administration to fix the budget.

Ben Palestino, TSG’s executive communications director, said in an email Empower TU will be inducted into office April 18.

Julie Christie can be reached at julie.christie@temple.edu or on Twitter @ChristieJules.

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