WEB EXCLUSIVE: SA referendum draws low voter turnout

Posted 1:40 a.m. Dec. 13-Fewer than 300 students turned out to vote Tuesday on possible changes to the SA and student behavior policies. SA members said short notice prevented many students from hearing about the election.

Students voted on three proposals: to add one more non-voting freshman senator, to review the Code of Student Conduct and to form a group to examine student judicial procedures.

SA Vice President Josh Singer and two senators created the referendum, which the SA estimates costs $2,500 to hold, by completing a petition. Their original proposal for a referendum on whether to add a third freshman senator was rejected by the Senate, so the students garnered 2,200 signatures on a petition to hold the election.

Zack Beyer, SA vice president for student activities, said the other issues were added to the ballot during a Senate meeting.

Singer said the SA should have been prepared to conduct a vote because senators were informed three and a half weeks in advance.

“Logic would dictate that if someone is telling you that you may have an election, then you would start preparing,” he said. “It’s great that they did a Hatchet ad, but why weren’t there posters in every dorm?”

SA President Roger Kapoor attributed the low turnout to a lack of preparation time.

“We had to put together an election within a matter of a week, so maybe the amount of publicity about the election wasn’t as high as it would have been,” he said.

Beyer said the Senate received the petition Nov. 30.

The two judicial items on the ballot are important, Singer said, and should have been treated that way.

“Student opinion is the most powerful tool to send the administration a message,” he said.

The SA will announce the results of the referendum on Dec. 18 because of final exams this week, SA officials said.

Beyer called the low number “disappointing.”

“Our goal was to get at least 500 students to vote,” he said.

Poll monitor Lindsay Hamilton said mostly students involved with the SA had voted at her Marvin Center polling station, where 31 people had voted by 1:45 p.m. She said half of the students voting said they were sent by Singer.

“No one knew about the election,” Hamilton said.

Freshman Ian Kandal, who worked at the polling station in Funger Hall, said the only issue students knew about is the addition of a freshman senator.

“We’ve had complaints that this whole election was a waste of
money,” he said.

“The only people who would get information were on the SA mailing list, so they are already part of the SA,” freshman Erin Hersey said.

SA bylaws mandated that the referendum take place before classes end for the fall semester.

“We didn’t have a lot of notice,” Beyer said. “We had to call the election before the fall semester ended. We sent out a couple of e-mails, but a lot of our focus was on the logistics. We thought the best advertisement would people sitting at the (polling) tables.”

Kapoor said the SA is considering ways to increase voter turnout for the regularly scheduled general SA elections in February.

“We’re looking into moving the elections online,” Kapoor said. “That way, all the verification procedures would be done in a speedy and efficient way and hopefully that will increase the amount of voters in comparison to the previous years.”

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