VOTES IN: The final voter count posted on the USM’s Instagram page on April 8, 2020. In
the caption was the note, “Thank you so much for participating and casting your votes! We
look forward to the good works of the USM regime 2020-2021.”
|by Jayda Lunan, journalism student
Director of Elections, Policies and Constitutional Affairs in the United Student Movement (USM), Mikel Allen, reported that voter turnout rose to 24.8% from around 20% last year in the recent USM’s first virtual elections, which ended on Wednesday, April 8.
“Though the percentage is nowhere near the level that is most desirable, considering the national crisis we are faced with, it is a reasonable accomplishment,” Allen said.
USM Associate Public Relations Officer, Toni-Ann Hudson, spoke on the measures her office implemented during the virtual elections to curb voter apathy and increase student involvement.
“While acknowledging that PR alone cannot change something as deep as apathy, we have gone out to form relationships with students on our social media platforms, encouraging them to vote, introducing them to the different candidates, live streaming the debates for students to watch and leave their questions. It was a fight, considering that this was all done online,”she said.
USM President, Kavion Allen, believes that virtual elections can be a way to garner more votes in the future, given this “tech-savvy” generation. “The USM first virtual election was a success,” he said.
“This is a model that other regimes can develop and make a coveted resource among our colleague universities…. At the same time, the traditional way ought not to be absconded. Use it but we must gradually move in the direction of the reaching and capturing our prime audience,” the President stated.
However, Political and Social commentator and NCU student, Rajae Danvers, pointed out a number of democratic concerns involved with the virtual elections – among them, the elimination of physical campaigning. In an opinion piece published by the Hilltop Trumpet prior to the elections, Danvers suggested that it is during the physical campaigning processes of elections that students get excited about voting, and without it, they will remain indifferent to the student government and will not vote. Fundamentally, “Elections should be the opposite of “social distancing.” “…without physical campaigning there can be no [true] voting,” he wrote.
Members of the USM contend that voter apathy continues to be an issue among students at NCU and beyond, but for more long-term reasons, including unfulfilled promises of past regimes, loss of trust in leaders, and students’; indifference about the importance of choosing representation.
“There are some students who feel as though their voice is not being heard through USM and some confuse the functions of USM with that of the [University] administration. As a result, these students abstain from voting,” the Director of Elections noted. He went on to appeal to students to understand that the USM exists to advocate for their best interests. “If we would pause and analyze many would see that there have been changes on campus that have been realized through the tireless advocacy of the various regimes of the United Student Movement,” he said.
The International Student Association (ISA) has since ran its elections virtually, with voting running from April 21-22, 2020. The 2020/21 USM regime is still set to be sworn into office for the upcoming school year.