SGA voter turnout down for third year in a row

SGA voter turnout down for third year in a row

SGA voter turnout down for third year in a row
April 24
16:06 2019

A total of 1,265 students, or 3.6 percent of the student body, voted in this year’s SGA elections, down from the 1,897 students, or 5 percent of the student body, who voted last year. The decline in voters has been a trend over the last few years, despite the increase in students at UNT.

In 2017, 2,809 students, or 7 percent, voted while 3,320 students, or 9 percent, voted in 2016. In 2015, presidential and vice presidential candidates Adam Alattry and Christopher Lee ran unopposed and received 1,196 votes of 1,264 votes cast, accounting for 4 percent of the then-student body.

The 2014 election recorded 1,928 votes, which was 6 percent of the student body a that time. According to a 2014 North Texas Daily story, that year’s election numbers were down from the 8 percent of students who voted in 2013 and the 10 percent of students who voted in 2012. 

Infographic by Lizzy Spangler

Shane Warren, a senator for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said he was unsurprised that the number of students who voted decreased again.

“Greek life has made up a disproportionate amount of the vote for a while now and there was no Greek candidate this year,” Warren said. “I think this is what normal turnout minus a large Greek bloc looks like.”

Social work junior Sierra Haynes said she did not vote in the recent SGA election.

“Honestly, I didn’t really pay attention to it,” Hayes said. “I knew about it but I just never really bothered to stop and [vote]. That’s primarily on me.”

Media arts and music performance sophomore Nathan Hardrick said they did not vote in in the recent SGA election.

“Really, I just didn’t get around to it,” Hardrick said. “I didn’t make it a priority so that’s not an excuse but that’s why.”

In this year’s SGA election, Yolian Ogbu and Hillary Shah were elected SGA president and vice president, respectively. In a written response to the Daily, Ogbu said she was disappointed but unsurprised at the turnout.

“Throughout the campaign trail, Hillary and I have talked to multiple students that had no idea what SGA was and it proved to me that our interaction with them during the election was already too late,” Ogbu said. “The way I see it, when more students are involved in the process throughout the year, they are more likely to want to vote because they see how far their vote takes them if the people in office constantly advocate for them.”

When asked about ideas for improving student engagement in SGA, Ogbu said their platform was centered around the student experience.

“Now that we have been elected, Hillary and I plan on opening the doors of SGA by encouraging students to join a committee that tackles an issue that they care about, having weekly meetups available for students to ask questions or just chat, have a comment/feedback section on the website, encourage students to participate and write legislation on anything they are passionate about,” Ogbu said. “We’re cutting out the cliquey environment and proving that students have the power to make change.”

Ogbu said she and Shah want to “increase outreach with student organizations and include them in the advocacy process.”

“SGA was created to, and has the power to, uplift and amplify students’ voices and their needs,” Shah said. “Students should definitely be more involved and paying more attention to the institution that can make their needs become reality.”

Warren said he thinks that “doing things and taking stands worth talking about is the best way to get students to care about SGA.”

“Students that do know about us perceive us as an ineffective, powerless institution going through the motions of representation with no power to actually impact their lives,” Warren said.

Warren said he believes that using the influence of student government and the newspaper on things such as “predatory textbook requirements, the generational impact of our college system’s racist beginnings and the state and federal governments systematic underfunding of education,” among other things, would result in higher turnout.

Warren also said that fighting to expand the Student Service Fee to “cover some things currently covered by other fees would be good too, because that’s the only fee students can democratically control via voting in SGA elections.”

Another senator, Deana Ayers of the College of Health and Public Service, said she felt that SGA did as much as possible to promote the election and to get students engaged.

“I didn’t see many people at the election board sponsored events and it felt like candidates had to promote the election itself in addition to campaigning for votes,” Ayers said. “I feel that there were many things that could and should have been done better by everyone involved to improve the election turnout.”

Ayers said she thinks a stronger social media strategy, more graphics, reaching out to organizations via Twitter and getting other SGA members to share information could increase future voter turnout.

“SGA is the biggest tool for the advocacy that the student body has when it comes to university wide change,” Ayers said. “It’s important that the people we elect to these positions have the best interests of the students at heart and that they are willing to do hard things if we ask them to. Student voices should be amplified by SGA, so it’s important that they get engaged and make their needs heard.”

Featured Image: File.

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Lizzy Spangler

Lizzy Spangler

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