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Student Senate Elections PR Committee seeks to increase voter turnout

Despite the creation of an Elections PR Committee, voter turnout for the 2018-19 Ohio University Student Senate election was down two-thirds from last year. 

Only 673 students on the Athens campus voted Tuesday — down 1,529 students from the previous year. 

Student Senate hopes to increase the numbers of candidates seeking election as well as voter participation in future years.

“There’s obviously a low following this year,” Student Senate Treasurer Zach Wood said. “There’s not really the juicy drama of it going on that people want to follow, and so I think this year it’s more of the pilot program.”

An internal representative and a judicial panel representative have made social media accounts and are working to “get the word out.”

“We are very closely in line with the other Ohio schools in that the University of Akron has had unopposed candidates for the past two years," Student Senate President Landen Lama said.  "Voter turnout across the state is very low for student government elections.” 

The committee seeks to increase participation in Student Senate elections by informing students about debate times and how to vote online.

“I didn’t know how to go about (voting),” Alex Ramsay, a sophomore studying studio art, said. “It shows not enough Bobcats are interested in running, which could be improved.”

Although Student Senate wants to increase undergraduate voter turnout across the Athens campus, their recruitment efforts focus on underclassmen. They emphasize the importance of student involvement. 

“The students have to be there to want to hear from us, want to give us feedback, and we have to be there to actively seek their feedback,” Lama said. 

Although representation can be at risk if diverse opinions are not heard, Lama feels that the Bridge campaign is working to represent the entire student body. 

“In past years, there’s been three to four tickets of students that are like 'yes, we are ready to put in the work and see our goals actually happen,' " Student Senate Vice President Nicole Schneider said. "But this year there was only one group, which isn’t a bad thing. I think they’re a very strong group, too, and they worked really hard to make sure they had diverse opinions,” 

Student Senate recruits new members throughout the year and often draws on people who express interest in specific issues on campus. 

“(We) have a lot of students who just come up to us that say ‘hey, I saw this issue on campus, and I feel really strongly about it,’ … and they end up getting a position on senate,”  Schneider said. “As much as we do try to recruit ... we’re not going to pull teeth trying to get people to join the organization. We want the people that want to do it.”

As the student governing body on campus, members of Student Senate vote on issues in reflection of how they think the student body feels about a given issue.

“(Representation) is something we’ve struggled with the past few years, and honestly all governing bodies really just struggle with that,” Wood said. “We try to get people to run, we try to get people in these seats to get in positions they’re supposed to, but also we really try to put that emphasis on having diverse opinions in the body.” 


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