This spring election for Student Government Association (SGA) senate and executive board saw the lowest voter turnout rate in five years, with only 15 percent of the eligible student population participating (421 students). This represents a 13 percent decrease since spring elections of 2015, with the presidential election of Caroline Fleming and Sarah Lawton. Last April’s spring elections (Ashlee Lindsey v. Ryan Evaul) saw a 24 percent voter turnout rate with the highest number of students voting.
Outgoing Vice President Michelle Fortin (’18) shared her thoughts about what some of the potential barriers may have been to students voting. “I believe students don’t vote because they may not have the resources or knowledge of SGA. We can promote all we want online and over campus; however, you will always have students that don’t follow our social media or have social media, students that don’t take the time to look at flyers on bulletin boards and others that may not even go near the student center to look at sandwich boards.”
Promotions for voting prior to the election included tabling, giveaways such as SGA sunglasses and hats, promotional videos, flyers, bulletin boards and golf cart shuttles on campus encouraging students to vote while being driven to class.
Outgoing SGA President Ashlee Lindsey (’18) shared that another reason for low voter turnout is the low turnout of students campaigning for Senate and Executive Board. “Last year when there were more executive board members ‘competing,’ I definitely spread the word more. Word of mouth is powerful. Some students definitely did give up on campaigning because they’re like, ‘Well I don’t have to, so I don’t have to try.’ And I understand that too… I had to compete to be a senator and chief executive office and president, so I knew the time commitment, but if I didn’t have to, I probably wouldn’t have.”
McKayla Hutchins (’19), newly elected 2018-2019 SGA president, who ran unopposed, was unavailable for comment.
According to Lindsey, the upcoming fall election will have 12 open seats with five reserved for incoming first year students.
SGA will utilize orientation to publicize their organization and get students excited to join, run and vote. Though Lindsey will be graduating in a few short weeks, she encourages both the incoming class and returning student body to run for SGA.
“People should run because you never know what you’re going to learn in any new opportunity. I think people should run too, because… it’s more of an intentional involvement in some ways because of the structure we have, but it’s really what people make of it.”
Fortin, on the other hand, encourages students to vote.
“Students should vote because SGA is elected to be the voice of the students. Without having students on this campus vote for who they believe should be in this position makes it hard to have people that truly care for the students and the SNHU community.”