SGA voter turnout gains momentum

(Graphic by Audrey Hockersmith)

As the Student Government Association votes were counted and the positions announced, one student in particular said he knew his work had paid off. Logan Britton, graduate student in agricultural economics, served as the 2016 SGA elections commissioner.

Although Britton did not meet his initial goal, which was top voter turnout in the last five years, the 2016 SGA elections did have the top voter turnout in the last three years.

During the 2016 SGA elections, 16.7 percent of the student body voted in the general elections for the new K-State student body president and vice president, according to SGA voting numbers and the spring 2016 K-State Regents Report from the Office of the Registrar. This is a 39 percent increase from last year’s elections.

“The strategies we used this year were a large reason as to why the turnout was so large,” Britton said. “We had a voting booth during the primary and general elections, so students could see a visual presence of elections happening.”

Over the last 10 years, more students have voted in the general elections than for their individual college senators, according to the SGA elections results.

Bill Harlan, SGA adviser, said SGA has used electronic voting since 2001.

Although technology has increased availability for students to vote, it has presented some challenges, said Jessica Van Ranken, SGA student body president-elect and junior in political science.

“I think that our Elections Commissioner and some members of student government this year acknowledged that sometimes the use of technology and being able to vote online decreased voter turnout in the sense that a lot of students don’t feel that compelling, physical interest reason to go vote,” Van Ranken said.

Over the last five years, voter turnout has typically decreased, according to the SGA voter results and the Regents Report. In the most recent election, however, voter turnout increased. While SGA cannot pinpoint one specific reason as to why more students voted in this election, Britton shared many possibilities.

“Students have a strong voice here at K-State, and they feel more inclined with the giving atmosphere in the state and the university,” Britton said. “Having another pairing for student body president and vice president … fueled the fire for elections. The hot button item was the write-in candidates.”

All candidates and their campaigns promoted the voting process well this year, Britton said. During elections, students could see fliers and chalk writings promoting the candidates across campus.

“We are actually happy because the numbers did bounce up this year significantly,” Harlan said. “I think a lot of it is trying to do a better job of informing the student body about what it is that student government does and why it matters who is serving in those roles and making decisions.”