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Student vote count still low for ASMSU

March 27, 2006

About 8 percent of undergraduate students voted in last week's ASMSU election — up from 4 percent in last year's voting.

ASMSU is MSU's undergraduate student government.

A $3 tax increase, which passed by a slim margin, and candidates running for student government seats appeared on the ballot.

But 8 percent of the undergraduate student population doesn't amount to much when the other 92 percent doesn't vote, student government officials said.

"If you look at other student governments, you'll find a general trend of apathy," said Andrew Schepers, chairperson of ASMSU's Student Assembly. "We all see it, even in public elections. It's that question of, how do you fight apathy?"

Every student who appeared on the ballot was awarded a seat, and even, then not every seat was filled for every college. Thirty-nine of the 62 available seats were left open because nobody ran for the positions.

"It's in our election code that whoever wants a seat needs to have at least 20 constituents voting for them," said Jessica Kunnath, ASMSU's association director and election organizer. "Just because they're on the ballot doesn't mean they win."

Schepers said the election was successful, but there's always room for improvement.

"We did a good job getting out there," he said. "We tried to do things that were more visible this year."

But ASMSU elections have not always gone so smoothly.

Last year, incorrect results were released after ASMSU officials misinterpreted candidates' names stored as coded numbers on a database. And in 2004, nearly 40 students were disqualified from running after being endorsed by the College Democrats and the College Republicans. At the time, any endorsement in fliers or e-mails had to be approved first by the elections committee.

Student government officials attribute the fact that voter turnout nearly doubled to their efforts to raise student awareness of the election. ASMSU officials provided student voters with laptops in various spots on campus, which gave students the opportunity to vote during the day.

"People don't realize it just takes a minute or two to vote," Kunnath said. "I definitely think (the increase in voter turnout) was the laptops. Having them available made it easier for (students) to vote."

Jennifer Marshall, a sociology junior and ASMSU's vice chairperson for student programming, walked around campus dressed in a duck suit during the election to grab students' attention and encourage them to vote. Marshall has owned the suit since high school and refers to it as the unofficial ASMSU mascot.

"We can give credit to the duck, too," Kunnath said, laughing. "ASMSU has always had a problem with awareness. People feel they don't want to vote if they don't know about it. We haven't found a solid solution for that."

The approval vote for the $3 tax increase was a close one, with only a 67-vote difference. Student government officials will receive an additional $237,000 from the tax increase.

"It shows that as the organization grows, it needs to show results and continue to where they've been going," Schepers said. "We've shown a lot of results this year with growing, but I think we need to continue to show that and go forward."


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