Referendum reformation

Fall Referendum results were released last Wednesday with a remarkably low voter turnout of 15.8 per cent. There is plenty of blame to go around for this dismally low number, but the AMS is the primary culprit.

Students have no excuse for their apathy. Voting in a referendum only takes five minutes and it’s relatively easy to get informed about the relevant clubs.

The widely-held notion that referendums are irrelevant to the average student is unfortunate. The clubs requesting an opt-out fee entertain you, advocate for you, inform you and provide creative, professional and social outlets for your peers.

We should strive to prove Mayor Mark Gerretsen wrong when he says that students are apathetic. The way things stand, we are fulfilling a self-involved stereotype. The clubs themselves could have done more to inform students. Aggressively promoting themselves on social media and doing more presentations in lecture would have been effective.

That being said, clubs are disadvantaged by the current rules. As it stands, if voting falls below the 20 per cent cut-off, groups need a 55 per cent vote in the affirmative instead of 50 per cent. The primary job of clubs is get “yes” votes, not raise overall turnout. The current rules should be reformed.

The fact that 6,000 students did not receive timely referendum emails undoubtedly reduced the amount of votes cast. Nothing else could explain the dramatic drop from last year’s 26.33 per cent turnout.

The AMS could do much more to promote and incentivize voting. The AMS emails about the Referendum could be more straightforward and eye-catching. In general, it’s obvious that the Fall Referendum is an afterthought compared to the Winter Referendum and elections.

If turnout remains low, significant reform to the current system should be considered. A possible alternative would see scrapping the referendum altogether and having students prompted to opt out when they pay their students fees.

The AMS needs to step up its game when it comes to promoting referendums. In aggregate, student clubs are just as important as the student government itself so they deserve commensurate attention. We should all resist apathy, if only out of fear that the Mark Gerretsens of the world are proved correct.

— Journal Editorial Board

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