As Student Union Assembly’s (SUA) elections draw near, candidates and representatives are revving up efforts to make this year’s election count. From May 15–21, students will elect representatives, approve or reject an extensive SUA constitutional amendment and vote on multiple new student fees.
The first pre-election debate in several years is scheduled for May 14 and aims to spotlight candidates’ stances on key issues.
The event will take place at the 9/10 Multi-purpose Room at 8 p.m., and will be televised on campus television on SCTV channel 28.
As the official student government of UC Santa Cruz with an annual budget of over $400,000, SUA directly represents the undergraduate student body to on-campus administrators, the UC Student Association, the UC regents and the United States Student Association (USSA).
Despite a history of low voter turnout, SUA organizing director Kevin Huang is optimistic for next week’s election. This year, he hopes SUA can show students the importance of this year’s election through outreach.
“UCSC students are politically conscious,” Huang said. “It’s a matter of catching students’ attention so they can show they care.”
Historically, voter turnout has rarely surpassed 30 percent. During last year’s election, only 20.09 percent of the total student body voted.
Constitutional amendments require a quorum 20 percent of the undergraduate student body’s vote — but last year’s amendment votes tallied about 17 percent and none of the proposed amendments were allowed to pass.
Former chair of SUA and current president of USSA Tiffany Loftin said low voter turnout is chronic in many student government elections across the country, rarely surpassing 50 percent voter turnout per campus.
“Not enough students know about student government elections or where and how to vote,” Loftin said.
Plans to increase voter engagement are in the works, said SUA elections commissioner Kelly Herron.
“The elections commission is working really hard to publicize the voting period to encourage all students to vote,” said Herron, who has been focusing on outreach to freshman and students who live off campus. “We are using social media to try to reach out to them.”
Elections coordinator Lucy Rojas said current SUA members have also been working with UCSC faculty to boost voter participation regarding the proposed new fees.
“The campaign groups associated with the proposed fees each year do an amazing job in encouraging voter turnout, and many of the groups typically work together on outreach and advertising,” Rojas said. “Our office tries hard to provide regular communication with students during the elections season.”
Elections Past and Present
Last year, a mishap occurred when candidates’ applications were posted online for eight days instead of the required 14. This was discovered after voting had begun, invalidated all votes cast. The elections commissioner stepped down and Fairooz Faggouseh took over the position, who also stepped down soon after. A third and final elections commissioner then took over the position.
Afterwards, new candidates applied for representative positions and a remedial election took place.
Faggouseh said she thinks the organizational efforts of this year’s election will make all the difference in this election.
“The success of [this year’s] elections really depends on the amount of support that is available from advisors, SUA members and other students as well.”
The Future of Flyering
SUA recently ratified a ban on classroom flyering, effective next year — an often used outreach method in previous elections. Huang said the ban has been put in place in an effort to reduce waste on campus, but is concerned voter turnout may lessen when the new policy is implemented.
“There are 16,000 students on this campus,” Huang said. “There’s no way you’re going to reach [a significant percentage] of them without those flyers.”
Current SUA chair Nwadiuto (DT) Amajoyi said she sees the ban as an opportunity for methods of outreach to evolve.
“One thing for sure is that the banning of flyers will require all future candidates to get more creative in reaching out to the student body and also raising awareness of themselves as candidates,” Amajoyi said.
Former SUA chair Kalwis Lo said with or without flyers, it’s up to students to make change.
“Full time students are busy,” Lo said. “They need to realize that [by participating], they can make a difference as an individual.”