After our last few issues of what some considered harsh criticism of the presidential elections on campus, we are now ready to congratulate the undergraduate student body for their strong showing at the polls in the UC Breezeway.
The elections last week showed a new trend: voting has increased. This year, a total of 1,957 students voted in the spring elections. This is up from 1,047 in 2003, 1,225 in 2002 and 666 in 2001. Granted, this is not a massive turnout – it’s still only about 20 percent of the undergraduate population. Still, it’s encouraging, particularly in a national election year when UM will play a prominent role in hosting the first presidential debate.
Of course, this is not to say that this year’s elections were in any way ideal: No one ran for the positions of School of Music, Commuter North or Commuter South senators. Yet we will refrain from bashing these schools any further and simply hope that they will do better for themselves in the future.
Now, what was it about this year’s election that made students come out to vote?
Because there were so many candidates – and a sense of fierce competition among some of them – public relations played a much larger role than in previous elections. Candidates spent more time in retail campaigning: personally handing out flyers, shaking hands and meeting students.
No one can deny that bombarding campus with neon-colored shirts and paper cut-causing palm cards was somewhat annoying, but it definitely raised awareness about the elections; there was no way to avoid them. Future candidates should try to reach out to the students like these candidates did – minus the sleazy tactics mentioned in previous editorials, of course.
Perhaps the most important effect of these heavily contested elections was to spark an interest in debate and political action around our usually uninterested campus, as evidenced by the affirmative action controversy last week. Keeping this kind of energy and discussion on campus will be the real challenge for the student body after the recent heat dies down.
That said, elections are not over.
The runoff elections taking place this week for the offices of president, vice-president and treasurer are more important than the ones held last week, since these will decide the most powerful positions on the SG Executive Board.
Students will now be forced to vote for the better of two candidates and not just for their friends. Votes will not be diluted among a pool of eight candidates, so every vote will be significant and hold more weight.
Vote for the best candidate. Vote for the candidate who shook your hand. Vote for the person who smiled at you in the elevator. Whatever you vote for, go out and vote!
Please don’t make us swallow our words.