Two percent of students at Northern Kentucky University voted in this semester’s Student Government Association elections. This number reflects the low voter turnout that has plagued SGA elections for at least the past 10 semesters.
During the past five years, as few as 2 percent to 12.1 percent of students have voted in the elections, which are held every fall and spring.
The spring elections include voting for a new president and vice president, while the fall elections consist of voting in senators and judicial council members. The numbers, provided by Assistant Dean of Students Steve Meier, show that while overall turnout is low, the spring elections do attract more voters than the fall.
According to Meier, a big issue with fall elections, including this semester, is senators seats not being contested. For instance, in the recent election, there were 15 senator seats and only 14 candidates.
Dr. Mark Shanley, vice president of Student Affairs, agreed with Meier and said, “For the spring elections, when there are heavily contested presidential and vice presidential candidates, the interest and attention of student voters goes way up.”
Besides the lack of competition in the elections, other theories exist as to why so few students vote. SGA President Josh Ruth said he feels the low turnout has a lot to do with NKU’s campus consisting of mainly commuters.
“I think a lot of students feel they are just here to go to class,” Ruth said. “(They) don’t feel the need to be engaged or to tie themselves into the university.”
Chad Sandy, a junior sports business major, said he didn’t vote because he didn’t even know when the elections were being held.
Along with Sandy, senior accounting major Erin Henderson didn’t know when the elections were being held. “It’s not very publicized and a lot of students probably don’t really care,” Henderson said. “I think those are probably the two biggest reasons they don’t vote.”
Julie Decker, a sophomore business management major, said she didn’t vote mainly because of laziness. “I didn’t inform myself on the issues at hand,” she said.
According to Ruth, only about 5 percent of students are involved with campus activities and Student Life, which he feels is correlated to the low number of student voters.
While a low number of students vote, Ruth said many more students complain about things at NKU. “You hear a lot of students that want to make comments about things that occur at the university, but you don’t see a lot of students who want to have an affect on the policy,” he said.
Dean of Students Dr. Kent Kelso recognizes the importance of increasing the number of students voting. He said, “Students should vote in order to ensure that their rights are addressed by SGA to the administration.”
According to Kelso, electing candidates who share students’ values and interests guarantees that the issues the students care about will be heard.
Ruth said one of the main issues students at NKU care about is tuition. He said as the governing body of the students, SGA directly affects their tuition, which is a big reason students should care about who is in their SGA.
While SGA may affect the university and its policies, this may not be evident to students. Tia Pinkelton, a senior accounting and criminal justice major, said in her opinion, “people don’t vote because they don’t feel like the SGA does anything for them.”
“Nothing they do is going to make me graduate any faster and that’s the main thing I care about,” Pinkelton said.