When all the votes were counted in the ASUCI’s spring elections, a little over 3,700 students voted or approximately 19 percent voter turnout. While this may not come as a shock to those who can recall turnout for past ASUCI elections there is reason to believe that turnout should be higher. While it is not common knowledge, ASUCI has a budget of well over a million dollars annually, most of which comes from your quarterly student fees. Any student who has any interest in how ASUCI spends their fees towards this million-dollar pot would logically vote, but few actually do vote.
This opens the question as to why students do not vote in ASUCI elections and I think the answer that I have came up with is obvious: There aren’t enough candidates! Anyone who bothered to look would have noticed that two out of five of the executive offices for ASUCI lacked competition! Multiple legislative seats were also uncontested. With ASUCI elections the popular refrain that ‘there aren’t any choices’ too often isn’t an exaggeration.
Another problem was the lack of information. Few in the general student body knew when candidate paperwork was due and hence virtually no ASUCI outsiders ever run. In addition, ASUCI did a poor job of educating students about Proposition 420 and an even worse job with the constitutional amendments. About a third of the students who did vote abstained from voting on Proposition 420 and nearly two-thirds abstained from the amendments likely due to ignorance.
To begin with, ASUCI kept the actual text of Proposition 420 away from the eyes of the general student body for as long as possible. The text appeared on their Web site on April 13 which was less than a week before elections. If not for the information provided by others within ASUCI, I would have likely known almost nothing about Proposition 420, assuming I knew it existed.
When I attempted to ask individuals working at the ASUCI office to look at the text early in spring quarter I continually came back empty-handed. Other curious students reported the same problem. In addition, the posters and fliers about Proposition 420 said little about it.
While the New University did belatedly write an article about Proposition 420 during election week, it wasn’t on page one and spends most of the time talking more about the press conference than the proposal itself. Ironically, the alternative media sources on campus did a better job at covering the ballot initiatives. Jaded was the only publication to my knowledge that mentioned the constitutional amendments. The only campus publication that gave a critical viewpoint on Proposition 420 was the campus conservative paper, the Irvine Review. Ryan Mykita’s News Revisited column on Proposition 420 in the Irvine Review was one of the best articles about Proposition 420 in that it revealed ASUCI’s spending on Proposition 420 and the controversial composition of the board that Proposition 420 would have created.
Another annoyance was that there were too many ASUCI election signs. The Irvine Progressive printed a picture of at least five ASUCI signs that were within 20 feet of each other! This excessive number of signs was unnecessary and did not solve the underlying problems that discourage students from voting.
Therefore, I believe that for future elections, ASUCI ought to focus more on publicizing the candidate debates, which few know exist and fewer attend. In addition, ASUCI should publicize the deadline to qualify more candidates to run. With scant information about candidates or ballot initiatives, most students simply will not vote.
Shawn Augsburger is a fourth-year history major.