Fire Away: Diminishing democracy at every level

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

  • Decline in voter turnout in CSA Elections has been apparent in recent years

    Decline in voter turnout in CSA Elections has been apparent in recent years

Written by Stephanie Rennie

‘Tis the season for the campus to be flooded with colourful buttons and posters promoting candidates during the annual CSA election. From February 27th until March 2nd, candidates are busy campaigning to win students’ votes. During the latter half of the week, between February 29th - March 2nd, students are responsible for voting for their favourite candidates through their gryphmail.

 Although much enthusiasm materializes on the second floor of the University Centre during campaign and voting week, it is obvious that the energy fades throughout the rest of campus. It has become increasingly evident that many students are not actively participating in the CSA by-elections in the fall, nor the CSA elections in early spring.

During the by-elections in October of this year, much anxiety circulated around the Central Student Association as the conclusion of the voting period becamecloser and the student vote was failing to meet quorum until the bitter end. As a result of limited student participation, only 15.63 percent of the student body took the time to cast their electronic vote. In fact, the empty seat on the CSA Board of Directors to represent the College of Management and Economics failed to be filled as only 8 percent of CME students voted.

Participation in the CSA Elections seems to be worsening every year. In last year’s election held in mid March, only 21.5 percent of undergraduate students voted for five executives for the 2011-2012 year. Only four thousand students bothered to participate in the imperative, yet simple, task of opening their email and casting their vote. The Guelph memes Facebook page has already reached well over eight thousand “likes” in the past few months, meaning that student participation in looking at memes is more than double than those voting for representation in their own student union last year.

The comparison between voter turnout in the 2011 CSA Election and the election held in the spring of 2010 also demonstrated the gradual decline of voting. Approximately 26 percent of eligible undergraduate students voted in the 2010 CSA elections, followed by nearly a 5 percent decrease the subsequent year.

It seems that one of the major (and unfortunate) themes of my time as an Editor this year has been the utter disappointment of people not bothering to participate in politics on any level. In May, a mere 61 percent of Canadians made their way to polling stations to decide on the next Prime Minister of Canada. These records of low voter turnouts shouldn’t surprise many of us since we just witnessed an all-time low turnout at the Ontario provincial election in October. With a mere 49.2 per cent of eligible voters taking the time to have a say in the next provincial government, it isn’t shocking that this crisis is apparent in a post-secondary school setting as well.

It is frustrating that students are not actively participating in electing imperative figures that will determine their upcoming school year. The five CSA executives that are elected during this crucial election period are responsible for ensuring that student needs are listened to and met on campus. If you have recently been ticked off about missing your bus every morning, you should care about who is going to be the next Local Affairs Commissioner. If you are frustrated with tuition hikes every year, you should be mindful of who is running for the Academic and University Affairs Commissioner and External Affairs Commissioner. These are the people that are going to be listening to the voices of students and advocating for them.

Being a University student is about so much more than cramming for exams and divulging in dollar beers at Trappers. It is the obligation and responsibility of members of the undergraduate population to participate in these elections and to have a say in the fate of the Central Student Association and the University of Guelph at large.

Stephanie Rennie is Editor-in-Chief of thecannon. Fire Away publishes every Thursday in The Cannon and in The Ontarion Student Newspaper at the University of Guelph.

The opinions posted on thecannon.ca reflect those of their author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Central Student Association and the Guelph Campus Co-op. We encourage all students to submit opinion pieces, including ones that run contrary to the opinion piece in question.

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