ASWC Needs You…To Vote

Ellen Ivens-Duran

Due to low voter turn out for executive council positions, this year’s Associated Students of Whitman College (ASWC) elections will take place on an extended timeline and use strategically placed voting booths to incentivize ballot casting. ASWC’s Communications and Oversight Committees are collaborating on changes that they hope will increase participation in student government elections.

ASWC’s Executive Director of Communications, senior Abby Seethoff, is responsible for ASWC’s information and advertising strategies, which include ASWC emails and design or approval of poster and table topper campaigns.

“I joined ASWC on a whim because there was a position open that suited some of my interests. And I discovered that ASWC is actually a lot cooler than I thought it was, and there’s actually a lot going on…In my high school, ASB was glorified poster making and they couldn’t really make changes because there was no give and take with the administration,” Seethoff said. “But ASWC is actually a really dedicated group of individuals who put in a ton of time in to making this college that they attend better while they can, and I am invested with the duty of telling the student body about that.”

In an effort to involve and invest the student body, ASWC will be putting up voting booths for the April 10th-11th Executive Council elections and the April 20th-21st Senate elections. They will be located outside of Prentiss and Jewett dining halls, and Reid Campus Center during lunch and dinner and Penrose Library in the late evening.

“During an Oversight meeting someone came up with the idea to have voting booths to make it more of a spectacle and make it feel like it matters a little bit more, that it’s fun, that you’re participating in your civic duty,” Seethoff said. “And we’re also going to give out little I Voted stickers to the people that participate in voting booths.”

Although senate elections usually get half of more of the eligible voters to participate, elections for Executive Council positions such as President, Vice President and Nominations Chair can be ten to twenty points lower. Oversight Chair senior Jon Miranda was inspired to try new voting incentives after reviewing data from recent elections.

“The spring elections, it varies…quite a bit…people that are rising sophomores they vote pretty well, about 58% but then [rising] juniors, also in this case happened to do pretty well, 59%, but then it’s always the seniors that are older, are about 41%,” Miranda said, “And then if you go tot the EC elections, which are going to be the entire school voting, those are going to be somewhat lower…they’re all kind of in the 40s.”

Reasons for low turnout vary. For instance, graduating seniors may be unaware that they have the opportunity to vote for Executive Council positions. Also, unlike most Senate races, presidential and vice presidential elections tend to have few candidates in them. ASWC is pushing to end this trend of voter apathy.

“Honestly, I think that even when it comes to the real elections, with the President of the United States,…it’s necessary that everybody participates, because every single person has a voice and every vote counts. The one thing is if you don’t care, no change is going to happen,” said first year Communications Committee member Dorothy Mukasa. “As long as you want to see a leader and you want to see positive change on campus, you need to use your voice.”

The voting booths are one method ASWC will employ to increase voter enthusiasm. They are also making a practical change. Rather than leaving the polls open from midnight until 8 p.m., ASWC will allow voters to make their choice from midnight on the first day until 8 p.m. on the second. They also plan to send out reminder emails. All this, they hope, will result in the highest voter turnout in the modern ASWC era.

“I would love to see [Executive Council voting rates] at the 60% mark, to get those up to where they are for the individual class elections. I don’t know about whether the individual class races will increase in participation because they’re already very high, in some cases like 62%, but it would be great to see those increased as well,” Miranda said.

In the end, ASWC is trying to foster greater civic engagement among the campus community. And they need your help.

“In terms of voting, you can vote in five minutes,” Seethoff said. “It’s five minutes to make a whole bunch of people who spend a lot of time in Reid 210 very happy.”