Students unite to not vote
Well by now you’ll have voted in URSU’s most recent by-elections and faced the triumph or failure of your favourite candidate. No? You were not, in fact, one of the 92 students on campus who cast a ballot in the most recent URSU by-election? Well, neither was Amira Khan, a third year social work student.
“Yeah I definitely didn’t vote,” Khan said, laughing. “Was I supposed to?”
Ten of the thirteen candidates won by acclamation – and not the kind of acclamation where they give a voice vote – the kind where no one else ran, so they just kind of, win. This isn’t to say that those candidates were poor choices, or didn’t deserve their wins, just that there is so little interest in some students’ union roles that more than three quarters of the candidates had no competition.
URSU President Victor Oriola said that in spite of low turnout, the election was a success. “
Several positions which were previously unfilled, like Luther, First Nations, Indigenous and Social Work director will no longer go unoccupied. Some of these positions, in the case of Social Work for example, have been empty for some time.” “There was only one race this year and this would, naturally, lead to less participation as only a limited percentage of the electorate is eligible to participate.”
I have to admit I was aware of the URSU elections – at least I recall seeing the posters, anyway, and also my boss mentioned them a lot. The day to day existence of the students’ union seems far removed from my actual life as a student. Sure I love my U-Pass and my prescription and dental coverage, but the inner workings of URSU – which holds meetings every second Tuesday, for three hours at a time, do not interest me in the way that, say, the federal election we just had interested me.
The nature of a students’ union – and of a student body – is always in flux. Students come and they go. So do their union representatives. For Khan, “it just doesn’t seem to matter to me. There’s just going to be another election in, like, six months.”
Oriola disputes the notion that engagement is low and says that turnout varies from election to election. “People are aware that these opportunities for contribution and participation exist . . . students are still willing to engage,” he says. “Going into 2020, URSU hopes to see even more participation. In the last few years, elections – particularly for executive positions – have been well contested. These participation rates have not necessarily translated to other races.”