Students must dispel apathy and cast votes

Candidates+for+vice+president+of+external+affairs%2C+university+affairs+and+finance+for+Associated+Students+discussed+their+campaign+platforms+at+the+A.S.+debates+mediated+by+The+Daily+Aztec+Tuesday.+%7C+Antonia+Zaragoza%2C+Photo+Editor

Candidates for vice president of external affairs, university affairs and finance for Associated Students discussed their campaign platforms at the A.S. debates mediated by The Daily Aztec Tuesday. | Antonia Zaragoza, Photo Editor

by Leonardo Castaneda

Candidates for vice president of external affairs, university affairs and finance for Associated Students discussed their campaign platforms at the A.S. debates mediated by The Daily Aztec Tuesday.  | Antonia Zaragoza, Photo Editor
Candidates for vice president of external affairs, university affairs and finance for Associated Students discussed their campaign platforms at the A.S. debates mediated by The Daily Aztec Tuesday. | Antonia Zaragoza, Photo Editor

While you read this the future of your school is being decided, and you may not even know it. Maybe you know the Associated Students elections are fast approaching; maybe you’re just dimly aware that walking down Campanile Walkway has now become an exercise in sign-dodging.

Odds are you fall somewhere in between, aware of the elections but not sure what it’s about, or why you should care. That disinterest is not entirely your fault. While A.S. has made efforts to advertise the elections it’s hard to reach San Diego State’s approximately 30,000 students. Much more needs to be done before voting begins monday to ensure all students know who the candidates are, as well as when and where to vote.

This year presents a peculiar challenge for A.S. considering it doesn’t have the Aztec Center to act as a focal point for the school. In the past, a couple of representatives on the Freedom Steps could reach hundreds of students as they funneled through Aztec Center. Without this, traditional tactics such as “tabling” around the library or scattered signs and flyers aren’t going to cut it. There are some simple, cost-effective steps it could take to raise awareness. Asking professors to take a minute or two at the beginning or end of their lectures to announce when and where to vote could go a long way toward reaching commuter students who don’t spend a lot of time on campus. And by shifting voting from the rarely used WebPortal system to Blackboard could do more to increase voter participation than any advertising campaign could.

But as fun as it can be to blame A.S. for voter apathy — and believe me, it’s fun — we cannot ignore a significant portion of the blame lies with us as students. It is our right and obligation to educate ourselves about the candidates and the positions for which they are running. A.S. is a massive multimillion dollar organization with responsibilities ranging from organizing Green Fest to running the Aztec Recreation Center. Executive officers have more in common with corporate CEOs than your high school’s student government president. Whomever we elect will make decisions during the next year that can impact how much you pay in student fees and what the school looks like in 10 years.

And before you resort to lazy cynicism about how your vote doesn’t matter, consider these numbers from last year’s elections. The 3,115 votes cast for presidential candidates represent 10.4 percent of the total student population. Cody Barbo, the current A.S. president, beat his closest opponent Kris Gruidl by 182 votes. Barbo’s 1,175 votes were enough for 37.7 percent of the vote, which means he was elected by 3.9 percent of the total student population.

Not only did every single vote count, so few students voted that each vote actually cast proportionally counted for around 10 students.

This intolerable situation in which a few students are able to choose the fate of many, simply because they took the time to actually vote, cannot continue. It’s up to every single one of us to seek the information needed to learn about the candidates and make an informed decision. There are places available to do that. In the coming days, The Daily Aztec will run statements and biographies of the candidates. It will also publish interviews and debate footage to inform readers about the candidates’ stances about a variety of relevant issues. All that information will be freely available in print and online through The Daily Aztec’s website.

There is a saying you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. The Daily Aztec and A.S. can provide you with as much information and encouragement as humanly possible. But it is up to you to get informed about the positions and the candidates. And it is up to you to log on to WebPortal next week and vote for whichever candidates you believe are best fit to represent your needs in A.S.

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