We are in the middle of more elections than we can easily keep track of, both on campus and around the country. We encourage you to participate in as many of these as you can.
Here on campus we have the various Student Senate elections. The election for the executive positions of President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer are happening right now. Chair positions and general assembly will follow. While this may seem like a long timeline, it gives people who are unsuccessful running in an earlier election a chance to run for a different position.
Nationally, there are various primary and state/local elections happening. This year’s presidential election happens on Tuesday, Nov. 3, but the voting starts long before that, with the Iowa caucuses. Other states follow soon, with “Super Tuesday” happening on Tuesday, March 3. Illinois’ primary is two weeks after that, March 17, so those of you who plan to vote here should remember that (although Spring Break may make it more complicated). Absentee and early voting are available for Illinois voters as well.
For those of you who plan to vote elsewhere, make sure you know if you need an absentee ballot and how to get one.
Many of these elections are not just presidential primaries but local and state level general elections as well. They matter. So, while it can be inconvenient to vote, you should. For some of us, college may be the easiest time to vote, because we do not yet have the demands of a daily job and we vote absentee.
Democracy and elections do not work without voter participation. Money and time are important contributions as well, but they lose much of their significance if they aren’t followed up on with voting.
Of course, the systems for voting are far from perfect. The electoral college means the current president lost the popular vote. The Iowa caucuses fell apart and due to the need for recanvassing, the results are still unclear. It is also unclear if Iowa and New Hampshire are the best states to lead in the nomination elections.
Closer to home, Senate’s elections also face difficulties. They often have low turnout (sometimes comically low). Google Forms are not really the most appropriate or anonymous methods for voting.
The election also lacks candidates. The only people running for the Secretary and Treasurer positions next year are the current Secretary and Treasurer. These are low but not unprecedented for these elections.
Senate is also planning to reduce the number of senators from each class from six to five because they are having a hard time keeping the positions filled. High turnover is not new to Senate, but such a policy change should not be left unheard of or unchallenged.
These changes and difficulties suggest that a change in approach, ideology or culture is needed within Senate and the student body as a whole. Being elected with less than two dozen votes is not a sign of functional democracy.
Senate matters on campus, both in their role in the budgeting process and funds requests and as a way to bring student concerns to senior staff and the Board of Trustees. How elections are run and who ultimately wins matters.
So please vote. But also, please make your voice heard on ways to make elections better. You can find a link to the Senate election ballot by this week’s Senate briefing.