Those already involved in ASUCD should actively encourage voting and promote awareness
As of Monday, undergraduates have had the opportunity to vote in ASUCD’s fall elections on three measures and for Senate candidates, representatives of international and transfer students, and the vice president for external affairs. If you are reading this before noon on November 11 and have not already done so, we encourage you to log into https://elections.ucdavis.edu and vote. Discover our endorsements here.
As of this writing, the Editorial Board expects to see another election with a surprisingly low turnout. In ASUCD 2021 spring election, less than 2,000 students voted for Senate candidates; to put it in perspective, there are over 30,000 undergraduates, all of whom are eligible to vote, so the Senate race turnout is less than 6%. ASUCD 2020 fall election had a similar turnout.
The turnout peaked in the 2020 ASUCD winter elections, in which 35.82% of students – over 10,000 undergraduates – voted on the Referendum on basic needs and services. During this election, ASUCD staff and volunteers were everywhere, calling from the MU patio, filing in CoHo and writing on whiteboards in lecture halls. The visibility of this effort clearly paid off with the passage of the referendum, but even with a record turnout, less than half of all students voted.
The low participation rate in ASUCD is a major problem. Effective student government requires the students it serves to be active and informed participants. If more than 90% of students are unaware of the elections or are reluctant to vote, less than 10% of students choose elected officials who represent all students.
ASUCD employs more than 1000 students, which means that if each student employee voted and told three other students to vote, the number of voters would be more than double that of the last two elections. But even to do this, students who are not as closely related to ASUCD must first be aware of what ASUCD is.
Raising this awareness is a two-way street: students need to care more and work to learn more, but ASUCD needs to instigate this with more intentional and directed awareness. Both this year and in the past, several candidates for the Senate and other leadership positions have told the Editorial Board that lack of transparency and communication is the biggest problem facing ASUCD. We agree.
These same candidates cited social media as a possible solution to increase communication and transparency, but students who are not already involved in the association are unlikely to pay attention or care to posts from an Instagram account. that they might not even follow. It is necessary to invest time and resources in late advertising – filing at UM, making announcements in classrooms, and hanging more visible posters would be a good start. The effort that was made to increase the turnout in the winter 2020 elections, when the referendum on basic needs and services was on the ballot, should be repeated for every election.
ASUCD isn’t just student government – units, such as CoHo, Pantry, and Unitrans, are essential components of what makes ASUCD what it is. These are all services that students use on a daily basis, and they should know that the Senators they vote for – or do not vote for – make decisions about the budgets of these units. They should also know the roles of the executive and judicial branches of ASUCD – what does it really mean to be president of ASUCD?
Some of the candidates for this term’s election have offered to host events to raise awareness of what ASUCD is and how students can get involved. The Editorial Board hopes that, if elected, these candidates will work towards the implementation of this initiative. Additionally, for ASUCD to represent all students, especially those who are not interested in getting involved, they should also organize and promote events aimed at sharing information with the student body as a whole.
In a item in The California Aggie of 2009, a reporter wrote that “many students may find ASUCD difficult to penetrate, seeing it more as a clique or a private club than a service,” a sentiment some students probably still share. By setting tangible goals to increase students’ knowledge of ASUCD operations and make the association feel less exclusive, ASUCD can not only gather feedback from the students it serves, but also welcome different perspectives.
ASUCD is for and by students. This does not mean that the 30,000 students should have memorized the ASUCD statutes and be ready to quote the constitution, but students should feel able to make their voices heard by providing comments and voting.
Written by: the editorial board