Students, SA can increase voter turnout for election

With a voter turnout of 3.24 percent in the Student Association Senate elections, a major change has to be made in the attitude of students and SA election promotion to increase voter turnout.

Only 653 students out of 20,130 students enrolled at NIU voted in last week’s SA Senate elections, according to voter turnout numbers from Election Commissioner Kevin Gordon. The decline is almost 100 fewer than the 720 students who voted in the 2014 SA Senate elections and an even bigger decline from 750 in 2013 and 675 in 2012.

This year’s SA Senate elections were the first to be held online at Huskie Link, a social media website for student organizations. Huskie Link may be accessed from mobile and computer devices on and off campus. Making a Huskie Link account is as simple as students inputting their Z-IDs and passwords. They are then automatically registered to the website, which is filled with information about all NIU student organizations, as well as campus events and news.

The link to access the ballot was posted on the homepage of Huskie Link, making it very easy for students to access it and vote. There was no need for students to be on campus Tuesday and Wednesday of election day, yet they did not make their voices heard by simply signing into a website — like they would with their email — and taking the time to learn about the candidates and making a couple clicks to submit a ballot.

The SA controls a budget of more than $6.5 million, which is distributed to student organizations and services, according to the SA’s website. Voting in elections is how students can assure they have the best, capable representatives to handle this large amount of money that comes from students’ pockets. In order to hold SA members accountable for their actions, students must be active in SA elections and ongoing discussions.

Although students did not turnout for the elections, the SA also did a poor job of election promotion, especially on social media.

The SA’s Facebook page showed one post in September asking for students to attend mandatory candidate meetings and one post urging students to vote. The group’s Twitter page has not sent out a Tweet since May 5. The Instagram page had a four-week-old post of the group asking for candidates to attend mandatory meetings.

At the SA Senate meeting Sunday, Senators Robert Kreml and Timothy Brandner said the elections were not promoted well enough through fliers around campus, with Kreml adding that there was a lack of signage at poll stations and posts on the SA’s social media pages. These issues should have been addressed prior to the SA’s first meeting, where something could have been done by Public Affairs Director Ari Owens and Gordon.

If the SA plans to push online elections, a strong online presence and promotion would be paramount in leading students to vote.