The 2017 ASUC elections saw a 16 percent decrease in voters compared to 2016 — the lowest turnout in at least the past five years.
Possible reasons for the drop in participation range from smaller candidate slates to disillusionment in the democratic process of voting, particularly in response to the national election.
This year, only 10,020 students voted in the ASUC election, compared to last year’s 12,559. While this number represents a significant drop in voters, Elections Council chair Linsha Qi, who is a former Daily Californian blogger, said the low turnout did not affect the results of the election and most likely stemmed from the decrease in number of candidates running.
“People kind of thought to themselves, ‘Well, these two (executives) don’t even have competition — it’s fine, it must not be a big deal,’ ” Qi said. “(People think) ‘My vote might not matter as much, as those two people aren’t even running against someone.’ ”
Ian Bullitt and Helen Yuan both ran unopposed for academic affairs vice president and executive vice president, respectively, while CalSERVE ran a slate of six senate candidates — eight fewer than last year. This decrease in candidates meant there were fewer people who had personal connections to the ASUC or candidates, said current ASUC President Will Morrow.
Morrow said voters are more inclined to vote if they have a personal stake in the elections, such as knowing someone who is running for a position. This makes conversations between candidates and voters more personal within the context of an ASUC election, influencing more students to vote.
“People are more likely to become engaged in the election if they have people directly within their network engaged in the election,” Morrow said. “Not because someone has a direct connection with someone who’s running means that they’ll vote, per se, but they’ll have a bigger desire to join in the voting process.”
Morrow said communities who feel unrepresented by the ASUC may not run a representative for an elected position, continuing a cycle of nonrepresentation for that community. CalSERVE party chair Zahra Abadin said another possible factor for the decrease in voter participation is communities trying to increase organization outside the ASUC.
According to Student Action co-chair Rachel Schuster, a continued decrease in voting may delegitimize the power of the ASUC because it will not be able to adequately serve the entire student population. Abadin said the lack of communities represented in the ASUC is something that the student body is aware of, adding that members of the student body are discouraging voters from participating in the voting process because “they don’t feel that their vote counts.”
“Realistically, the less people that vote, the less of a say that the campus has in its student leadership,” Schuster said in an email. “It leaves the ASUC less accountable and perpetuates the stereotype that ASUC leaders are just the ‘popular kids’ rather than average students who are working really hard to show that there is so much more the University can, should, and must do for us.”