Voter turnout in the UWSA’s 2017 by-election was shamefully low, with fewer than 9% of eligible electors bothering to cast a ballot. In real numbers, of roughly 11,000 undergraduates at the University of Windsor, 947 voted for a presidential nominee and 42 of whom declined to vote for either candidate.
Sara Alshoibi, the UWSA’s Chief Returning Officer, says this is because “voter turnout for everything is always lower than we want. But this was a by-election, fewer candidates and less going around.” The UWSA tried to generate awareness insists Alshoibi, “we posted on all social media and we got the word out there.”
In the CRO’s report to the UWSA Board Thursday evening, Alshoibi states 9% is a normal turnout for a by-election. This compares to a 36.7% turnout in the 2016 general election.
But in the last by-election where an executive position was vacant about 1,200 students voted for the presidential candidates. This year, with an executive position up for grab as well, 20% fewer students voted.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying that the turnout was lower, claims UWSA General Manager, Maria Hamilton. “This year the UWSA engaged resident services and they had a meeting with them before and put posters up everywhere and went to their RA meetings to make sure people were aware of the election. They went over and above.”
Hamilton adds, “the comments I have heard from students, they are asking well what are we voting for, it’s a by-election? They don’t think it’s as important, for some reason and I don’t know why that is.”
Ryan Flanagan, Vice President of Student Experience at the University of Windsor suggests a number of reasons are behind the lack of student involvement in campus politics. “I am of two minds on this. There is so much drama that goes with student politics. A part of me says, if students don’t want to get involved I’m okay with that because there is so much drama and they are here to get an education.”
On the other hand, he says, “you do need student leaders to engage, represent and push forward the issues of the student body.”
Flanagan says ultimately, students realize that student politics, “are not federal, not provincial, or not municipal. What is ruling on those elections is big in the eyes of the students running in those elections. They are running a 5-million-dollar budget, which is a fairly big deal but when you put it into the context of the university where it is a 250-million-dollar budget, and in the context of the province it is really kind of on the smaller side of things.”
University of Windsor student Melanie Renaud agrees drama plays a role in the lack of student involvement. “I personally think, it was because of all the things that happened last year, people didn’t want to vote this year and didn’t care to come out.” Renaud recalls hearing students say they didn’t vote because of what “happened last year. Not anything specifically regarding the candidates this year, just because they would rather have nothing to do with the UWSA after the scandals from the following year.”
Jeremiah Bowers officially took office as the President of the UWSA last Thursday evening after the election results were ratified by the Board.
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