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Voter turnout low for AS elections but still higher than years past

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With an increased voter turnout this year, the 2014 Associated Students (AS) elections had one of the highest numbers of student participation among California State Universities (CSUs) in Los Angeles County. This past election had a 12.2 percent voter turnout with 4,195 students voting out of 34,301 enrolled in the spring semester. Last year’s turnout was 10.6 percent. The national Presidential elections by contrast had 57 percent voter turnout.

Tiffany Zaich, AS president-elect, said she is glad more students voted this year.

“I’m happy we had such a large voter turnout,” she said. “I hope it keeps increasing.”

Zaich said she wants more students to take an interest in their student government.

“It’s the students’ voice we represent,” she said.

Having a food truck that provided food from hamburger restaurant The Habit was part of the reason for a higher turnout, she said.

“I feel it’s a great thing to have something to incentivize student voting,” she said.

Zaich said another reason for the increase was due to the fact  that the candiates spoke to various clubs and organizations.

“We went in and talked to other clubs on campus,” she said. “We marketed ourselves.”

She said some students may not be aware of what the role student government has in their daily lives. “Unfortunately, a lot of students are not aware of AS,” she said.

Zaich said other campus leaders should work to engage with voters more.

“If other campuses went out, let students know, ‘we do want to represent you’ there would be an increase,” she said.

In comparison to other schools, California State University Long Beach has a similar size student body at 34,350.

The number of students that voted in their student government elections totaled 2,808 with a voter turnout of 8.2 percent.

While CSUN gave food and prizes for voter participation, it’s not the only school that gives students prizes for voting.

Laura Butt, department secretary for CSULB student government, said students at CSULB were given a tumbler when they presented their voting receipt at the government office.

Like CSUN, CSULB students also vote online.

Zaich said the fact that students were able to vote online helped the turnout.

“We had an increase in voter turnout because of email voting this year.”

Students that voted, even those that voted in person were required to vote via their CSUN Gmail account. While this was not the first year students were able to vote online, Zaich said students were more familiar with it.

“It’s easier for them vote that way,” she said. “They can vote on their way to class.”

The only nearby campus with a similar voter turnout was California State University Dominguez Hills.

Their voter turnout was slightly higher at 12.6 percent. Their student government website shows that 1,450 students out of 11,427 voted.

Thomas Freelon, elections coordinator at CSUDH, said he took it as a personal challenge to increase student participation in elections.

“When I first got the position, (turnout) was at six percent,” he said. “I wanted to get it up to 8,000.”

Freelon got the numbers up to 12.7 percent. He said it wasn’t easy to get higher numbers of voters. “I took a new approach.”

He did this by promoting student government as well as the elections by inviting local radio stations on campus.

“The main thing students ask is ‘why should I vote?’” he said. Freelon answered these students by telling them that representation is the focus of student government.

“I tried to get a genuine vote,” he said.

Freelon said in spite of increased participation he realizes he can’t get the entire student body to vote. “You can’t grab everyone and (voting via) email will only reach a certain demographic,” he said.

While CSUN has switched to online voting in recent years, CSUDH students can still vote via paper ballot.

“A lot of people respond to more old-school ways,” Freelon said.

California State University Los Angeles voter turnout was one of the smallest among CSUs researched. Their turnout was 5.2 percent with 951 students voting on a campus of 18,074 students for 2013.

CSULA will hold their  2014-2015 elections next month. They are working on increasing participation in student government.

Like CSUN they plan on offering food and prizes for students who vote in person.

Giveaways such as iPads, amusement park tickets and movie tickets will be available to students who vote in their elections beginning on May 5.

They also plan on offering food and refreshments during their debates according to their website.

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