If you are a University of Winnipeg student, you are probably one of the 8,000 students who won’t vote in this week’s University of Winnipeg Students’ Association’s general election.
This is exactly what Sara McGregor, chief elections commissioner for the UWSA, is trying to change.
“(This year) we’ve tried to go and generate an elections brand. We are trying to advertise as much as possible ... and (are trying) to reach out to as many sources a possible,” said McGregor, a U of W politics student.
Along with improved visibility, McGregor has made efforts to better organize the election process and update UWSA bylaws.
However, the average percentage of Canadian students who actually vote in student association elections is around 10 per cent.
But Jason Syvixay, the current UWSA president, doesn’t believe low voter turnout numbers equal a student population that doesn’t care.
“I don’t think there’s student apathy on campus,” Syvixay said. “I think students want to get involved but they just don’t know how to, so it’s our responsibility to make it as simple as possible for them to get involved.”
Syvixay cites the recent surge in student activism that occurred during the possible University of Winnipeg Faculty Association strike as a sign that voter turnout will improve this year.
“ I don’t think there’s student apathy on campus. I think students want to get involved but they just don’t know how to, so it’s our responsibility to make it as simple as possible for them to get involved.
Jason Syvixay, UWSA president
“I’ve noticed more of a diverse range of students who are running for the positions. ... There are interesting people who are putting their names in the hat, which gets different types of students. You have candidates who are different and will bring their unique backgrounds to the voting stations,” he said.
McGregor is banking on this assumption, as many director positions are uncontested leading to a lack of debate on campus.
“I tried to impress on candidates this year that my job is to facilitate the election ... but at the end of the day they are the people that the students are voting for,” said McGregor.
New to the campaign this year is a computer program designed to record student voters, which will help in organizing polling stations on the expanded campus for the coming years.
McGregor also advocated for the new polling station that will be located on the second floor of Centennial Hall, adding that it will make voting more convenient for students like Lia Zarrillo.
“I don’t vote because I don’t know enough information about the candidates,” said Zarrillo, a second-year theatre student.
“I haven’t decided if I’ll vote this year. It’s my opinion that all votes do count and I don’t think it’s right for people to vote if they’re not educated about the issues,” said Zarrillo.
McGregor believes that numbers aren’t the most important thing in the election - instead, it’s the quality of the group elected.
“If we can progressively improve from year to year I think that’s all we can hope for ... and if we can raise the profile of the UWSA to more students on campus, I’m happy,” said McGregor.
For more information about this week’s UWSA General Election, go here.