Change is heralding within the semester as the 2018/19 Student Association Elections take place. The signs have been showing up all around campus in the forms of creative posters and manifestos pasted to the pillars of the connective bridge and the the sudden influx of queries from friends asking if you will vote.
However, as much as saying that voting is seen as some what compulsory, the numbers don’t always add up. According to the previous 2014/15 SA Elections (tailgating on Ben Huntes’ successful campaigning during the 2013-2014 debacle), 2063 votes were calculated for the election, which means that a total of 45.4% of the student body voted. The voter turnout stunned the committee into a realization that the campus would pay attention if the system was more relatable and endeavoured to connect more to the general student population. For the 2017/18 turnout, the numbers were lower than the 2014/15 turnout with 1529 voting out the total 4565 students. But how will this year’s numbers and statistics fair?
Based on the infographics provided from IGNITE’s Hustings Polls, the visual charts illustrate the choices a range of students (with vote counts from 83-111 students) would make if they had the choice to choose for their favorite candidates. The reception towards the Hustings was generally favorable with the F1A15 hall almost filled to capacity which may signify a better voting turnout for this year’s election. Though the response was only telling of those that attended the hustings, it can be said that this year’s election stands to be one of importance, as the campus is waiting with bated breath to see how the election will play out.
There have been observations that the responses towards this year’s election have been lukewarm at best. Judging by the dismally low number of candidates running for positions, many posts with only a single person running and none for the Education Officer, it’s difficult to disagree with the statement.
“To influence change is to vote,” the Secretary for the Student Council, Tan Li Ying says during our interview. One of the few problems the SA often encounters with feedback in general, is that those who voice their opinions on the shortcomings, don’t take the chance to vote for their preferred candidate. This could be due to the fact that some candidates may not fulfil their promises after being elected, which could build a cycle of frustration at voices not being heard, and would then influence their choice to abstain from voting.
I have curated a few responses from the students on if they should vote, and many responded that they would.
However, there were some that stated that they wouldn’t vote. Amanda Mojilip, a Year 2 student in International Communication Studies, says she wouldn’t cast her vote due to the overwhelming perception that the candidates only win due to popularity. It does stand to reason that in some cases the manifestos don’t have an influence on whether the candidate is suited for the position, but people vote for those that they know; hence, the popularity complex. While this may have been true during the previous years, the new system of voting (Instant Run-Off Voting) downplays the popularity aspect by eliminating the lowest voted candidate, and ‘donating’ their vote to the remaining candidates by the voter’s choice.
Others, like Amir Hisyam, a Foundation in Science student, will vote due to his obligations towards the SA as he works under the Home Officer. When asked why, he gives a small smile and says, “They’re my bosses and I kind of have to.”
Obligations towards their superiors aside, there are some like Kaiven Ng, studying Foundation in Arts. According to him, he has an obligation towards the future intakes to improve the system and casting his vote for the right candidate is a necessary step towards his goals. “I believe that if we choose the right candidate, we will be securing better opportunities for future students such as faster Wi-Fi.”
Unfulfilled manifestos, personal popularity and frustration at the system seem like valid reasons to deter one from voting, but should it really generate an ultimatum of not voting? In my personal opinion, it is imperative to vote as this is a once in a year opportunity for the student body to recognize their wants of improvement and to pick a suitable candidate who would be up to task to negotiate change for the better of our campus life.
Sure, some of us may feel like voting is a waste of time as we can’t see the changes implemented (or lack thereof) and the free brownies a small comfort. However, we are a student body with an obligation towards the incoming batches to carry the good reputation of UNMC. To vote is to have a voice. A chance to vote is a chance to improve the quality of campus life all around us and to give a better impression to the future intake of students who come into this university with high hopes that should be reasonably met.
To sum it up: even if change is imminent, it has to be incited.
So, what are you waiting for?
Vote for change!
Written by Tennielle Callista Chua
Featured image from Twitter