ASUU strives to increase voter turnout

With primary elections for student-body representatives nearing, the Associated Students of the University of Utah is exerting more effort than in recent history to increase voter turnout.

By pouring money, time and labor into a beefed-up marketing campaign, student leaders hope to increase voting by 5 percent of the student body, or roughly 1,400 students.

Historically, relatively few students have voted, with a record 13 percent of the student body voting last year.

The result has been a blame game cycle of students upset with the way ASUU spends student fees and a student government wondering how it can represent students who don’t vote or give any feedback.

Sophia Lingos, director of ASUU’s Communications Board, is heading up the marketing campaign. It is her office that has put signs all over campus encouraging students to vote.

Lingos said part of the reason she has set the goal to increase voter turnout by 5 percent was because of an article The Daily Utah Chronicle published that addressed voting apathy on campus.

Since then, she has been brainstorming on ways to reach students.

Some of Lingos’ plans include mailing voting reminders to all of the students in the dorms, encouraging professors to announce voting dates in classes, advertising on UTV and KUTE radio and placing helium-filled balloons around campus that advertise the elections.

For the first time, Marriott Library will allow student leaders to place voting reminder stickers on its computers.

To be able to do this, the “street force” Lingos organized will begin sticking at 4 a.m. the day of elections.

The street force will also be in charge of cleaning up all materials used to promote voting.

“[The communications board] has never done anything like this,” she said. “There’s no way you can not know elections are going on if you attend this university…Every little thing, we figure, is going to help out.”

She said some critics have complained about overkill, but Lingos, who has used some of her own money on the project, insists it is the only way.

Despite her efforts, many students just don’t care about elections.

Before deciding on how to approach the problem of student apathy, Lingos passed out surveys to communication and marketing majors to get an idea of the reasons they won’t vote this year.

Here are some of the responses she received:

“Student Government is arbitrary.”

“I’m here for a diploma, and ASUU has no bearing/impact on that.”

“I just go to school.”

“Not interested, don’t care, doesn’t matter.”

“I don’t really know how the ASUU benefits the U. I need to know more about what differences they have made for me to even care.”

“Don’t know who is running and wouldn’t want to make a mistake.”

“Time.”

“Because I have never attended an activity here, nor do I plan to. I think it’s stupid that I pay fees for stuff I never go to.”

But, going off of a relatively large attendance at Wednesday night’s residence hall debate, Lingos and others who would like to see a higher voter turnout retain hope.

“People are at least talking about elections this year,” Lingos said.

Live music also attracted students during the ASUU Rock the Vote event and got some of them talking with candidates about platform issues.

The Grassroots, the neXt and RE: Parties (those present at the concert) said that students have approached them and asked them about tuition, what activities they will bring to the U and platform ideas.

Scott Ence of the neXt party suggested that students and candidates “meet in the middle.”

There are two primary debates left in which students can find out more about platform issues.

They take place in the East Ballroom of the Union beginning at noon on Monday and continue Tuesday of next week.

Students can also visit party Web sites.

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