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ASMSU hopes to inspire U voters

January 31, 2001

When discussing student voter turnout in recent ASMSU elections, Nimri Niemchak has only one statement.

“It sucks,” the ASMSU chief of staff said.

Niemchak, along with other members of the university’s undergraduate student government, are beginning an initiative to improve upon the 2.2 percent, just under 1,000 undergraduates, that voted in last year’s student government election.

ASMSU plans on increasing student interest in this year’s election, which takes place March 13-15, by organizing an upscale advertising campaign, more access to voting, and seeking the assistance of other on-campus organizations. Its goal is to push voting numbers up at least 10 percent.

Some ASMSU officials are also pulling for the student government to provide at least $25,000 to publicize the voting drive.

“We have to get right in the face of students,” Niemchak said. “But the first step is getting people’s names on the ballots.”

Petitions to be on the ballot for an ASMSU representative seat opened last week and are available to any MSU undergraduates until Feb. 13. Students must collect 15 signatures on the petition from their college constituents for electoral consideration.

While Charles McHugh, ASMSU Academic Assembly chairperson, said that increasing last year’s numbers will take some initiative, he feels that ASMSU’s participation in causes such as working to eliminate the sales tax on textbooks may help encourage more involvement.

“We’re starting to see better results and better projects out of ASMSU,” he said.

But until more students become embodied in elections, McHugh said that the student government will be less reputable.

“In order to add some legitimacy, we need people to vote,” he said. “Student interest is not in ASMSU right now. We need to try and turn that around.”

Meanwhile, other Big Ten university student governments are fairing better in their voter turnouts than ASMSU.

“We normally get about 5,000 to 8,000 (voters),” said Keller Blackburn, chief of staff for The Ohio State University’s Undergraduate Student Government.

The student government has a voter of 17 percent, but the bulk of those students have no experience in dealing with it, Blackburn said.

“Really a majority of our votes came from freshmen,” he said.

Despite a consistent population of voters, the OSU’s student government plans on moving all their ballots to online voting, a method they are hoping will increase voter turnout.

Whether ASMSU will use both online and paper ballots will be decided this week by the All-University Election Committee, of which McHugh is chairperson.

Whatever methods are used, Niemchak emphasized the importance of student participation in the election of student leaders.

“ASMSU claims to be a student leader,” Niemchak said. “One thing that is imperative to lead is to have followers.”

“(Students) are not going to follow us unless they get to choose their leaders.”


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