Needed—Campaign time

The low voter turnout in the Student Association’s recent senate elections is not the current administration’s fault.

Actually, SA Vice President Dave Gonzalez, Elections Commissioner Laura Neissman, public relations adviser Anna Bicanic and other SA members did quite well. Voter turnout is slightly up and we have the lowest number of invalid ballots in years.

Still, a 4 percent rate of voter turnout seems pretty dismal. In fact, it’s darn right ridiculous. College students are in an age group that typically turns out roughly 20-40 percent in national elections, higher than other age groups. NIU’s campus last year had an 82 percent turnout of registered voters in the national presidential elections.

It’s hard for me to believe that apathy is the main reason NIU’s students don’t vote in the SA elections. The elections are crucial to their pocketbooks and the well-being of the school they have to sound proud of graduating from in future job interviews.

Here’s a radical thought: People don’t vote because there is no campaign. There is only one three-day weekend between the time candidates officially declare and the time elections officially begin.

It’s in the SA’s best interest to change this process. With a more protracted campaign period, candidates would not only encourage students to vote for them, they would be a (hopefully) 40-plus massive PR force spreading the gospel of the SA to a cynical and otherwise indifferent student body. Their debates and debacles could bring much needed change, pride, and mainly, involvement, to NIU.

It would also make the SA a more impressive force to the administration and the Board of Regents. Right now when they want to raise tuition or do anything that makes the students miserable, it’s all too easy for them to dismiss the opinions of the SA as inconsequential due to the low turnout. They see the numbers and decide they can do whatever they want. We don’t care.

Steps to counter the low voter turnout are long overdue. It is a very difficult undertaking, to be sure. But if nothing is done then next year’s students will be reading more quotes from students and SA officials that no one knew there was an election that day or the low turnout was simply to be expected. Then La Tourette and the Regents will proceed to tear the campus up some more, building more structures the students don’t want and raising our tuition to boot. Then this year’s SA administration will be to blame. They at least have to try.

Of course, maybe the rumors are true. The school is just filled with transients and commuter students. Forget UNI. Let’s change the name of the school to “College of DeKalb.”