Voter turnout declines

Although the AMS elections team advertised this year’s election
Image by: Justin Tang
Although the AMS elections team advertised this year’s election

Even with an emphasis on early advertising, this year’s AMS election saw a significant decrease in voter turnout.

Calum MacBeth, AMS commissioner of internal affairs, said this year’s elections team focused on marketing and getting information about the elections out to students.

“We did a lot of postering, we sent out emails, updated information on the AMS website and also made a marketing video, which was a parody of the Old Spice video. We really tried to do things early this year,” he said.

Last year’s elections saw 5,428 students out of an eligible 13,709 cast a ballot. The AMS calculated this to be a 40.48 per cent voter turnout. This year’s election saw a 24.85 per cent voter turnout. With only 3,540 of an eligible 14,246 students voting, turnout decreased by 15 per cent over the last year.

MacBeth said online voting was first introduced last year, and led to a three per cent voter increase over the year before. Thus, the online system is likely not the cause of the decreased voter turnout.

“The accessibility of having it online is far greater than not having it. Financially it’s a lot cheaper too,” he said, adding that the decrease is likely due to other factors.

“There wasn’t a lot of competition this year. Even towards the faculty societies. Last year EngSoc had four candidates running for president,” he said. “This year the ASUS president and vice-president positions were acclaimed.”

Since the two AMS executive teams running this year were both internally involved, MacBeth said that they may have appeared similar in choice to students.

“Last year the two teams were very different. One of the biggest debates over last year’s elections was the idea of the solar panel,” he said, adding that oftentimes students need a controversial issue that will engage debate for them to have an incentive to vote.

“When we are looking at all the Facebook pages, both team SDL and CES had less than 300 likes on their pages. Last year halfway through campaigning, CHR and PNF were both approaching 1,000,” he said.

As well as lacking a divisive issue like implementing solar panels, this year’s election team had a technical error occur in online voting.

The AMS elections team is in charge of sending emails providing a link to an online portal where students can log in to vote. However, this year many students received a broken link.

MacBeth said the characters in the link itself were correct but the hyperlink was broken so although it was possible to copy and paste the link, you couldn’t just click on it. But he said the error likely had little impact on voter turnout.

“The ones who truly wanted to vote and have their voices heard, I don’t think it [deterred them].” AMS Chief Returning Officer Alex Miller said there are other ways in measuring an election besides voter turnout.

Miller said that this year the elections team joined with AMS services and had staff wear large buttons encouraging students to vote.

“It’s hard because there was a low voter turnout but it’s not something that is [always] in the hands of the elections team. This year the marketing was very thought-out,” she said, adding that they did two rounds of postering, filmed an election video, put rave cards on computers on campus to promote student voting. Miller said the team also worked towards creating an incentive for students to vote by bringing back the free coffee coupon.

Miller said the elections team next year could try to reach out to students earlier in order to encourage voter turnout.

“I think that getting out and actually talking to first years is good too,” she said. “If they wanted to start taking initiatives for the winter election in the fall.”

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