Higher turnout in this year’s AMS fall referendum is a positive sign, but there’s still much to be done to make this year’s uptick last.
Last week saw the highest voter turnout in an AMS fall referendum since 1995 — 34.1 per cent, up from 15.8 per cent a year ago. All proposed fees passed successfully.
Even though 34.1 per cent is the highest turnout in years, it’s still significantly low.
The relatively high turnout was partially a result of the implementation of a new, user-friendly online voting system. The AMS made noteworthy efforts to encourage students to vote by establishing polling stations and circulating students with iPads around campus — tactics which should
be reused in the coming winter referendum.
But what really drove the vote was the presence of popular fee proposals, such as the Bus-It and SHRC fees. Bus-It, in particular, was central to the AMS’s overall advertising effort for the referendum.
High turnout can’t sustain itself from year to year through similar circumstances. The majority of students are unaware of how critical referendums are to student life and the health of clubs and organizations on campus.
Rather than simply publicizing the referendum dates, the AMS needs to relay to the student body why they should vote in the first place. This could be done in the executive’s monthly video updates or by speaking to classes.
Allowing students to abstain from voting on certain fees this referendum was an effective move. It helps deter the possibility of clubs and publications losing their ability to operate simply because students have never heard of them, and are therefore inclined to automatically vote “no”.
The AMS made good use of the referendum by posing a plebiscite question on the Homecoming ReUnion Street Festival. This means of garnering student feedback should be used more often heading forward.
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