Participation in ASUC voting drops in 2019 election

A group of people sit in a large meeting room and look towards large screens.
Paige Hagerman/File

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Although 2019’s ASUC elections were arguably among the most controversial in years, the majority of UC Berkeley students chose not to cast their votes.

This year’s elections saw a 5 percent decrease in voter turnout, from 11,706 total voters in the 2018 elections to 11,099 students this year.

ASUC Elections Council chair Shirin Moti said that this decrease is in line with previous years based on the number of candidates who ran for office.

“This is around the average amount (of voters),” Moti said. “I think like four years ago it was much higher because there were a lot more candidates in the race. That number has gone down a lot.”

About 1,742 more students voted for the position of executive vice president, or EVP, this year than last year — a 30 percent increase. According to Student Action party co-chair Josh Wilson, this may in part be due to the fact that the EVP position was contested between the campus’s two largest political parties, Student Action and CalSERVE, this year. In comparison, last year, a candidate from Student Action went head-to-head with an independent candidate for the position of EVP.

“When you have both parties running candidates, you see more turnout than if you have just one,” Wilson said. “They pull more votes because they have more institutional support.”

The quota cap for senate candidates was also lower this year than last. In the 2019 election, the cap was 483 votes, while in the 2018 election, it was 538 votes. According to ASUC bylaws, the formula used to calculate the quota cap is dependent on the number of senate seats that need to be filled and the number of votes. Moti said the lower cap is a direct result of the lower number of senate candidates and the lower number of voters.

CalSERVE elections chair Kylie Murdock said about 30,000 students, the majority of students on campus, did not vote in the 2019 ASUC elections. She added that although people should not blame students for not voting, she believes that students should be more concerned about the ASUC as it decides how student fees are allocated.

Campus senior Thao To said she did not vote in the ASUC elections and does not follow ASUC politics, a sentiment shared by many other campus students. Campus freshman and ASUC Senator-elect Liam Will added that some of his friends said they did not vote in the elections because they do not know enough about what the ASUC does.

According to Moti, this year, the ASUC implemented voter incentives similar to those from previous years to promote voter turnout. The ASUC also bought advertisements and promoted the elections on digital displays outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union and Eshleman Hall.

“It’s difficult to get this knowledge and circulate it to 40,000 students,” Moti said. “Hopefully, more people catch on and vote, and the ASUC will continue to find creative ways to circulate this information.”

Contact Megha Krishnan at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @_meghakrishnan_.