Voting for the Student Government general election begins Monday, March 5, and continues through Thursday, March 8. Polling locations in front of Bayboro Hall, the library, Residence Hall One and the Davis lounge will intersect with nearly every student’s path at some point throughout the week. Spend the few minutes it takes to have your student ID checked, click a few buttons, check a few boxes on a screen, and vote.
Two sets of candidates are running for president and vice president—a contested election—and about 16 people are seeking senate seats—an uncontested election. You can read more about specific candidates on page 1, but the candidates’ backgrounds, qualifications and philosophies on government don’t mean much if students don’t vote.
Last semester’s midterm senate election tallied 369 votes. This was more than the previous two elections—238 and 306 votes respectively. But USF St. Petersburg has 4,350 students, according USF’s 2011-2012 calculations—3,780 undergraduates and 397 graduate students. That means that about 8.5 percent of students voted in last semester’s election.
The average is about 2 to 4 percent for voter turnout for colleges and universities nationwide, including smaller community colleges with mostly commuter students, according to the American Student Government Association. State universities and colleges average around 10 to 15 percent voter turnout, ASGA says. USFSP’s voter turnout is better than the national average, and close to the state university average, but USFSP students should strive for better.
Some complain the voting seems like a futile endeavor. A common complaint of those displeased with the state of politics in the U.S. is that voting doesn’t matter because politicians don’t really represent the people anyway. Campaign promises are just for show and once they take office, high-level elected officials are all but untouchable for the average citizen.
Whether this is true at the national or state level, it’s not a worthy argument against voting at the university level. It’s easy to succumb to apathy, and make the tired “it doesn’t matter anyway” argument. But while one may not be able to sit down with the president of the U.S. to talk tax plan ideas one-on-one, students at USFSP can knock on the SG president’s office door and actually get an answer.
SG allocates student money in the form of the Activities & Services Fee each year. This year they allocated a little over a million dollars for clubs, organizations and student life. Every semester they pass legislation that affects these clubs and organizations. Their decisions directly affect students, whether those students are involved in every club on campus or go straight home after class. Every student pays the A&S fee, and every student should take some responsibility for that fee in the form by voting for and holding accountable the fellow students charged with handling that money.
Voting is especially important this year because the SG president-elect may have the opportunity to represent students for the whole USF system. Because elections are being held earlier than in previous years, the newly elected president may be able to serve as student body president for the USF system, meaning potentially more influence and a louder voice for USFSP students.