Why people don’t vote in the SGA elections

By Nick O'Malley

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Sami Webber/Collegian

Every year, the Student Government Association elections come around and feature the organization at its finest: well-organized campaigns, intricately-run elections, candidates showing how they’re going to make their sizable funding work for the students. It goes on for three days and, now that voting can be done online easily, students don’t really miss the memo.

Still, it’s rare if more than even 15 percent of the total student population votes (Last year’s election drew 14.58 percent). Why? Let’s go over a few reasons.

Reason 1: With age comes irrelevance

The longer students are on campus at the University of Massachusetts, the more they’re apt to realize how important the elections are. That or they’ll stop caring. This is particularly pertinent for graduating seniors, who are voting for a president and trustee they’ll never see in office.

Sure, it’s important in the long run, but the election’s effect on students who aren’t coming back next semester is negligible. Keeping in mind both graduating seniors and students who aren’t coming back to the University, that’s at least a quarter of the student population that doesn’t have a vested interest in the elections.

There’s also the issue that most efforts by the SGA focus on the affairs on campus, lowering the interest of students that live off campus. It’s great the SGA played a role in getting new laundry machines and bike racks, but there’s still only about 10 visitor parking spaces at the Townhouses.

The main reason I’m going to end up voting is because my friend who’s a senator may end up beating me to a pulp if she finds out I didn’t vote (I’m working on it, OK?).

Reason 2: Senators by default

While it’s true that the elections do show the SGA at its finest, most students either already have preconceived notions about student government or aren’t going to be bothered at this point.

By the time spring elections roll around, many students are aware that, in some cases, not enough students ran to become an SGA senator as there were available slots. They also may have heard of reports of senators showing up intoxicated and getting thrown out of meetings. They also may have heard of the red tape and hoops dialogue has to jump through for anything to get done at an SGA meeting. Some students just don’t identify with that government. It’s no fault of the SGA – they’re trying.

Reason 3: It sounds too much like school

Meanwhile, there are students who don’t want to be dragged into politics – even if it’s campus politics concerning them. Maybe some students have stuff to do, like this hypothetical student:

“You know what? I really don’t feel like doing this,” said hypothetical student. ”I just want to go home and browse the Internet for, like, two hours before I have to do like eight billion pages of reading and work on this stupid paper due Tuesday. Man, why did I even take a polisci course?’

“Maybe I don’t feel like taking 15 minutes to find out about each candidate,” continued hypothetical student. “Well, I guess I could just go off of the 12 flyers I got coming back from Franklin today. Wait, I have to make an account for Campus Pulse? Screw that. When’s voting open in the Campus Center? Ah screw it, I’ll do it next year when I find out what’s going on.”

Reason 4: You can only get freshmen once

My first year on campus, the only reason that most of my friends ended up voting was because then-candidate Malcolm Chu’s campaigners were out in force in Butterfield and we got hounded while walking through Franklin on the way to eat.

We were young, naïve and figured, hey, we should probably vote. Semesters of realizing that they actually didn’t care that much about campus affairs and that a lot of races are pretty much decided already have justified, in their minds, not voting.

Don’t worry, they didn’t read The Collegian either. They still don’t, even though we still hang out all the time, and they know I write. Yeah, thanks guys. I see how it is.

Reason 5: Procrastination

Day one: ‘Oh man, I should vote when I get home.’

Day two: ‘Crap, I forgot to vote. No worries, I just gotta remember to do it tomorrow.

Day three:’Alright, seriously. I’m going to vote before I go to bed tonight. I put it off yesterday and I’m going to vote online right now before I forget.’

Day four: ‘Ah crap, it’s over isn’t it?’

Reason 6: “What does the SGA do, exactly?”

If you pay attention, it’s easy to find out about the many things the SGA does to help people on campus. It does actually do important work. But to access this information requires, you know, reading and stuff. Who has time for that? In case you do have time, today is the last day to vote.

Nick O’Malley is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]