Student voter turnout drops nearly 100 from last year

Victoria Garcia

Approximately 773 students participated in the recent Washburn Student Government Association elections that paired Whitney Philippi and Amy Billinger against Patrick Muenks and Billie Jean Bergmann. With all of the voting done online, students were provided with a more accessible option in terms of when and where they decided to cast their vote.

The overall results were nearly 100 votes less than the 2007-2008 election’s results of 862 students. Angel Romero, WSGA student representative, explained that while there are many factors that can result in the increase and decrease in voter numbers, the specific issues candidates choose to focus on have a significant effect on the interest of students.

“The smoking referendum attracted voters during the 2007-2008 elections, and really any time that there is a referendum it is more than likely going to generate a large amount of student interest,” said Romero.

The smoking referendum included on the 2007-2008 ballot had more votes than the actual presidential candidates. The results revealed an overwhelming amount of students in favor of making Washburn a smoke-free campus, with a vote of 606 to 250.

Vincent Bowhay, WSGA president, cited additional reasons for the decrease in voter turnout for the 2008-2009 elections in comparison to the previous year, the first of these being due in part to this school year’s lower enrollment numbers. Bowhay also thought the election numbers could have something to do with the lack of initial announcement.

“While in past years we’ve had an official event where we actually announce who is running for the presidential candidate position, this year’s event was cancelled due to the snowstorm,” said Bowhay, “and I feel that it had an effect on getting the candidates’ names out there.”

However, Bowhay believes that the campaigning portion of the election process is steadily gaining momentum with each term. His hope is that as the campus grows into a more traditional environment, campaign events such as the candidate debates will continue to see a larger student turnout and thus a greater amount of overall votes.

Romero hopes students view the campaigning portion of the elections as a great opportunity to learn about the candidates. With only 40 votes separating the two running teams this year, he believes the election results revealed the importance and power of just one vote.