Student elections plagued by low voter turnout

Just like previous semesters, the Associated Students of Cosumnes River College student government held their annual elections on April 13 and 14 to find the next group of officers to serve on behalf of students.

Elections were completely online through eServices, much like they were last year which was the first year that the traditional polling places were not used in favor of going fully digital. Through that system there were 141 votes cast in this election.

While that is an increase compared to the 86 votes cast in last years election, and 11 cast in last fall’s special election, it’s still a tiny amount of the almost 15,000 students on campus.

While many students said they were aware that an election was happening, it did not interest them. Jonathan Taraya, 34, a dual radio, television and film and journalism major said he did not vote because he had no interest.

“If any of the decisions the President made mattered or if there was actual visibility on how they do affect the stuff we do, I think people would care about it,” Taraya said. “Like right now most people are here for two years, ideally or less, and they don’t really see the impact of what our student president does or even the campus president. So if whoever controls the voting committee, if they did a better job showing why it matters to me I’d be more inclined to vote.”

Others like 20-year-old architecture major Shane Rigsby said they did vote for specific reasons.

“I voted because the situation of how it’s not cleaned up in spaces around the quad,” Rigsby said.

While he was aware of the election, Rigbsy said that the ASCRC and campus could do more to advertise the elections so that more students are aware of them.

A lack of interest and knowledge about the ASCRC and elections was a common thing said by many students about why they did not vote.

There were four ASCRC candidates running for different positions that students could choose from, and just like with the last election cycle, each candidate was running unopposed for their chosen position.

Running unopposed was not a guaranteed win even though there was no one running against them. Each candidate still had to receive more yes votes than no votes from students otherwise they would not have been elected.

There was a second ballot for students to fill out, as each of the four colleges had to vote for their new Los Rios Student Trustee to serve upon the district board. There were three candidates to choose from this time.

Cameron Weaver, currently the public relations director for American River College’s Associated Student Body, won and was elected that trustee. Weaver said apathy played a major part in the lack of student voting.

“Frankly, I feel that students are not participating in their student elections for the same reason over half of the U.S. population doesn’t participate in their national elections: apathy,” Weaver said via email. “It makes complete sense. If I don’t feel an immediate impact in my daily student life from the activities of my campus senate, what is my stake in getting involved in the first place?”

Weaver said more of an impact needs to occur to get students interested in voting.

“The bottom line is that collectively as a district, our campus senates, including ARC’s of which I am currently a part of, have not been able to make that impact,” Weaver said. “The impact I’m talking about doesn’t just extend to the Los Rios student who is on campus five days a week and actively involved in clubs and extracurricular activities, but the student attending classes 1-2 times a week, juggling a full-time job, a wife or husband and even children.”

Weaver said that students are not feeling positive changes in their daily lives from their campus senates. Issues like financial aid, bringing down the cost of textbooks and supplies and increased classroom availability are issues that students care about but senates have little to no control over Weaver said.

“It has become apparent to me that being in a campus senate does not afford one the tools to actively work on issues like these, the issues that do affect all students, regardless of their campus involvement or stake in the community college system,” Weaver said.

The inability to tackle these issues is a roadblock Weaver said needs to be addressed in order to stimulate students to vote once again.

“My impression from having been a senate member for the last year is that students don’t care because they do not believe in the system or that positive change can come from the system. Regardless if they are wrong or right, it is our job, as public servants to our fellow students, to give them a reason to care,” Weaver said. “To give them a reason to believe that getting involved is the polar opposite of wasting time, it is the stepping stone to progress. That will be the legacy I hope to leave behind before it is all said in done. Participation leads to progress, progress leads to change.”

Bobby Bishop contributed to this article.