Fall 2005 ASUCD Election/Turnout Controversy

InfoInfo
Search:    

The Fall 2005 ASUCD Election saw the lowest voter turnout in over 5 years (perhaps longer). There are varying opinions as to why there was such a drop in turnout. Below are a few of the views.

The California Aggie

On November 29, 2005 The California Aggie ran an editorial claiming that the low voter turnout in the election was the result of a failure upon the ASUCD Elections Committee. The editorial is the bold and italicized text below.

Campaign Managers

I was the Campaign manager for LEAD during the Fall 2005 ASUCD Election and it was also my first election. Looking back you realize all the little things that need to be done and that were not done during the Fall of 2005. I think the candidates were just as qualified and unqualified as an average election and I believe some real quality Senators got elected; Avni Patel, Christine Rogers, and Kareem Salem. All of them proved to be passionate, inteligent, hard-working and respectful. I think the combination of new campaign managers on both slates, lack of controversy, eternal lack of sufficient California Aggie coverage lead to the low turnout and not the elections committee inaction. -JamesSchwab

Elections Committee Members

The California Aggie has turned down my request to print a retraction. I will be talking to a lawyer about further action in regard to a case of libel. (I also have the receipt that verifies that the sample ballot advertisement order was placed over two weeks in advance of the date it was scheduled to run. This is at the very bottom of this page.) - JonathonLeathers

As the Chair of the ASUCD Elections Committee I, JonathonLeathers, attribute the low turnout to the poor quality of candidates (mainly their lack of campaigning) and a lack of controversy. I find it incredibly irresponsible for The California Aggie to publish blatant lies in their editorials. As such, I wrote a response to this editorial and have posted it below. I may not have a newspaper but I do have the Wiki.

I, Chad Van Schoelandt, as Events Coordinator for the Committee agree with Jon's response, and agree that the poor quality of the candidates, and general lack of controversy, is to blame fully. It should be fully noted that the Aggie stated that the candidates were a poor lot when they printed endorsements. RevChad

Responding to The Aggie


(The italicized text is the editorial — copyright The California Aggie — everything else is my response.)

Editorial: ASUCD Elections Committee
Lack of effort to blame for low voter turnout
Posted 11/29/2005

With only 2,145 students casting a ballot, the fall 2005 ASUCD election saw the lowest voter turnout in over five years. The ASUCD Elections Committee credited the disappointing turnout to a lack of qualified candidates and the late formation of the organizing body.

The Elections Committee never said this, I said this as an individual. Not all members of the Elections Committee agree with my assessment.

While these factors warrant some blame, the Elections Committee's poor publicity of the election must be held responsible for the lack of student showing.

We did everything that has been done in the past except put balloons around campus because the Senate cut this from our budget.

The Elections Committee chairperson was appointed last spring, giving him several months to organize groups and prepare for the election. Lack of time is a poor excuse for inadequate publicity for the election.

First of all, what "groups" are supposed to be organized to prepare for the election? Should I have gone to student organization meetings over the summer when student organizations don't meet and when I'm not getting paid to work on elections to tell students that there will be an election in several months and that there will be several people running for Senate who aren't even known yet? Seems like an odd request. Also, I did work over the summer (when I wasn't getting paid to work) in order to prepare for the election. Likewise, publicity was the same for this election as it was for previous elections, minus balloons.

Committee members had a range of opportunities to remind students to vote, including an Aggie Pack-style e-mail or more visible tabling in high-traffic areas.

The Elections Committee does not have access to "an Aggie Pack-style e-mail" listserve. In fact, no ASUCD unit, (Aggie Pack is not a part of ASUCD"], has a large listserve. So this is simply a lie. In addition, a mass e-mail and tabling by Committee members have not been done in the past so it does not account for the drop in voter turnout.

Furthermore, the committee was late in submitting a costly advertisement in The California Aggie, which typically serves as one of the primary ways of publicizing the election.

We submitted the sample ballot on time with the candidate's statements and ballot measure information. The Aggie advertising department lost our order and did not realize this until the week before the election. Additionally, they did not contact us until a day later. At this point, the Aggie's graphics department (which consists of only two people and has always done the sample ballot) was gone for the week and would not be back in time to finish the sample ballot. We were told by the advertising department that we had to make the advertisement ourselves if we wanted it to run. The sample ballot costs ASUCD just under $3,000 per election. The advertising department had no problem with the ballot not running and losing this sale.

As a result, the ad ran on the same day that The Aggie's senate profiles were printed, diminishing its effectiveness.

The sample ballot always runs in The Aggie the day before voting begins. In the past, The Aggie has run its candidate profiles on multiple days leading up to the election. In addition, The Aggie ran their profiles on the same day that they announced their endorsements. The Elections Committee ran the sample ballot the day before the election begins, as it always has; The Aggie ran its endorsements and candidate profiles on the day before the election, breaking with the past.

The Elections Committee did not devote adequate time to its ad, as it was riddled with errors, including misspellings of candidates' names.

As stated, we had very little time because The Aggie failed to do the job that they were paid to do. As such, the Elections Committee was forced to hire an independent graphic artist to make the ad (and spend even more money). There was only one error and it was MY fault for not catching it, not the Committee's. This error was the misspelling of a single candidate's name, a candidate who was elected a few days later. Any other errors were the fault of the candidates as their statements were copied and pasted into the sample ballot. The Elections Committee cannot edit the statements of candidates, even for typos. (A side note is that The Aggie printed the wrong time for the announcing of results, which could have led people to believe that voting was over one day before it was actually over.)

While the fall election lacked the drama and scandal that led to high voter turnout in the winter 2005 election, the most recent campaign was no less important. In addition to appointing six new senators, students voted on two significant constitutional amendments. One amendment was regarding the appointment of senators in case of a resignation and the other focused on fee hikes - two issues in which students should have a strong interest.

Student input on these issues is important, and without effective publicity by the Elections Committee and proactive campaigning by the senate candidates, low voter turnout can only be expected.

Once again, the Elections Committee did nothing different in regard to publicity than previous elections, except for a lack of balloons. Therefore, the only way for this to be true is for it to be true that balloons increase voter turnout.

More than 9 percent of the possible voting population needs to weigh in on the issues and candidates if they wish to ensure that their money is being spent wisely.

Editorials represent the collective opinion of The California Aggie editorial board.

While I agree that more publicity for elections will only increase voter turnout, the only difference in publicity on the Elections Committee's side between the Fall 2005 election and the previous elections is that we did not put balloons around campus. In fact, the ASUCD Senate cut the balloons out of our budget. It does not seem to me that a lack of balloons can be held responsible for the lowest voter turnout in over five years. Even if it is the case that hundreds of more people would have voted if there were balloons around campus, the Senate cut this out of our budget before this Elections Committee was even formed. We cannot be held responsible for the actions of the ASUCD Senate.

With the exception of balloons, the Elections Committee went about publicizing this election in the same way that past elections have been publicized. So, if you're like me and think that a lack of balloons is not responsible for hundreds of previous voters not voting, you'll begin to look at what did change between past elections and the Fall 2005 election. One thing that changed is that The Aggie ran all of tis candidate profiles on the same day, the day before the election (also the same day it ran its endorsements and the same day that the sample ballot ran). In the past, those have been run on multiple days leading up to the election, constantly reminding readers of the upcoming election. However, in this election, The Aggie decide to run two stories; one on the Coffee House forum and one article on Choice Voting (which discussed none of the issues or candidates involved in the election). Instead of covering the election, The Aggie chose to devote three front page stories on the days leading up to the election on water. The Aggie chose to run stories on water; the Elections Committee chose to run ads about the election. And we failed in at publicizing the election?

There were two other factors that are the true cause of lower voter turnout: quality of candidates and lack of controversy. I have a hunch that if the Elections Committee would have disqualified a candidate during the election, it probably would have resulted in Aggie coverage and more interest in the election. The fact that there was no controversy during the election is not the blame of The Aggie, the Elections Committee or anyone else as far as I'm concerned. Additionally, the quality of candidates hurt turnout. Several people told me that they weren't going to vote or did not vote because they did not know who the candidates were, what they stood for, or because there were no candidates running who represented their views. Myself and other members of the Elections Committee tried to urge several candidates to run that would have drawn in the "sometimes" voters but that is as much as we can do. We also cannot force the candidates to actually publicize themselves and campaign. This campaign and election was as uninspiring as the candidates running for election. Had there been more candidates and more campaigning, voters would have been able to distinguish between the variety of choices. As it was, voters saw only a few candidates and couldn't even tell what those few candidates stood for.

When it comes to voter turnout, the quality of candidates (how many candidates, how diverse are the candidates, how well do they campaign, etc.) is the main factor in ASUCD elections. Certain groups of people on campus won't vote if they have no one to vote for or if they don't know that they have someone to vote for. Additionally, controversy always raises interest in anything, elections are no different. The standard publicity done by The Aggie and the Elections Committee is important but has a huge diminishing return. ItÂ’s our job to let people know that there is an election going on and to try to convince them to vote. However, there are only so many reasons we can give to vote. At some point the voter has to evaluate the candidates and if they evaluate that there are thirteen undistinguishable candidates, they're not going to vote. This decision is an individual decision made by the potential voter and is out of the hands of the Elections Committee.

Some Proof

This is the order that was placed for the sample ballot which The Aggie editorial board claims "the committee was late in submitting." You can clearly see that the order was placed on October 31st and was set to run on November 15th. That's over 2 weeks in advance, while the ad department claims that they only need these placed 3 days in advance.

aggie_ad.jpg

This is a Wiki Spot wiki. Wiki Spot is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that helps communities collaborate via wikis.