Election Turnout Reportedly Under Five Percent

Associated Students Vice Presidential Debate. Photo courtesy of the AS Elections Comitee.

Two sources in connection with Associated Students claimed that AS election voter turnout was under five percent as of yesterday. While the Election Committee will not officially release turnout data until after the voting period has ended, the reported five percent turnout comes from an anonymous AS Senator and member of the Elections Committee.

AS Elections Manager Janani Natarajan refused to officially confirm those numbers, telling The Triton that no official voter turnout percentages have been publicly released.

“Historically, we have not publicly released information in regard to the percentage of students who have voted or voting breakdowns by college,” said Natarajan. “[W]e strive to achieve a voter turnout of 100%, and we strongly feel that releasing this sort of information would dissuade students from voting and instead nurture a sense of complacency.”

However, last year’s official election results reported a turnout of 5882 undergraduate students, representing approximately 22 percent of the 2015-2016 undergraduate student body. With polls closing tomorrow at 4 p.m., about 4,000 additional students would need to vote to have a 20 percent representation in election results.

As reasons for not voting, several students cited a lack of knowledge about the candidates, what their different positions entail, and the election in general.

“I have no idea what’s going on, honestly [with the elections]. I have no idea what you can vote for or what it impacts,” second-year Sixth College student Lauren Kukuyama said. “I mean I see people [say] ‘vote for so-and-so for President,’ or these different things, and I’m just like ‘I don’t know who you people are.”

Second year students Roger Rodriguez and Eric Pinedo agree the process of voting could be way easier, such as with a Google survey or other process for submitting votes on a phone. Rodriguez and Pinedo both voted last year but have not voted in the 2017 elections yet.

“This is going to sound lazy, but to be honest, going onto TritonLink and voting is kind of a lot of work,” Rodriguez said.

Other than tabling on Library walk, Pinedo said there is not much pushing students to vote or advertising the different positions of the candidates.

“I think [elections] are pretty important, but [we] haven’t done enough research; we’re not really aware of the circumstances or what different views [people have]… and what kind of effect it would have on campus,” Rodriguez and Pinedo said.

The results from student elections in 2014 and 2015 are not available on the AS website, and Natarajan said she didn’t have access to the information from those years. However, the results from 2009-2013 are similar to last year’s data, with voting rates falling between 20 and 30 percent of the undergraduate population.

While fee referendums, which raise the cost of attending the university, require 20 percent of the vote, the ASUCSD Constitution has no provision defining the level of turnout required to accept election results. Despite low turnout, if only five to ten percent of students decide to vote, student representatives will chosen based on those votes.

“We will continue with our efforts to publicize the election and encourage students to vote so that the election results are representative of as much of the UC San Diego community as possible,” Natarajan said.

The 2017-18 AS elections are scheduled for April 10 through 14. Polling stations and online voting will close tomorrow at 4 p.m.

Natasha Vyhovsky is the Assistant News Editor for The Triton. Jaz Twersky, Shine Cho, and Gabriel Schneider contributed reporting to this article.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote from Elections Manager Janani Natarajan to John Weng, the Assistant Director of AS Operations at UCSD and listed the voting rate for the 2015-2016 school year as 20.9 percent rather than 22 percent.  The earlier version also stated that sources confirmed the below five percent figure. The story has since been updated to state “claimed.”