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Upcoming student elections are not truly democratic

February 7, 2017

Upcoming student elections are not truly democratic

In recent years, there has been a surge in studies which have either demonstrated that the U.S. is a partial democracy or a full blown oligarchy, and thus it seems unreasonable to claim that De Anza College’s late-February DASB elections are even less democratic.

Unlike the current dynamic of American politics, De Anza obviously does not systematically suppress votes from certain voting blocs, nor does it allow for superfluous amounts of money in its elections, yet it faces a far greater threat to democracy and legitimacy — a pathetically low voter turnout and a system uninterested in changing this.

In fact, according to estimates from the current senate, voter turnout tends to fluctuate between a measly three to five percent, roughly one-fifth of the turnout of Saudi Arabia, a country which registers as an authoritarian monarchy.

Student elections for the DASB begin on Feb. 27 and run through March 3.

Senate candidates are only given one week to campaign prior to the election, which is not nearly enough time to encourage high vote rates. While De Anza candidates are humanized through a Meet Your Candidates Day event, the forum receives only a fraction of the time and exposure of well-established events like Club Day, despite the fact that the state of DASB is astronomically more pertinent to De Anza’s future than any particular club.

The seats in the student body control upwards to tens of thousands of dollars and can ultimately decide whether or not a college program lives or dies. The decisions they make during the school year greatly affect all of us, regardless of our willingness to vote or even recognize their existence.

Students vote online solely through MyPortal, but the student portal is rarely used outside of class registration season. Considering that election week ends before the majority of students are actually eligible to register, it seems nonsensical to not simply extend voting week until the week when student traffic is highest. Even then, it takes an unreasonable amount of exploration in order to find the small-font voting link; if DASB is capable of cutting over $100,000 in budget, it does not seem unreasonable to ask for a giant graphic which captures the eye.

Perhaps most detrimental to De Anza’s voter apathy is the fact that the school struggles to promote its voting booths. Partially, this is because of the school’s electioneering rules which prohibit candidates from campaigning within 50 feet of a voting location. Logistically, the resources and untapped energy are palpable but poorly executed. Last year, a small number of polling sites were established, but poor wi-fi, laptop issues, and incorrect voting links hindered an already limited operation.

De Anza could host their own Rock The Vote by setting up voting stations all over dense areas of campus, such as the quad and providing ‘I voted stickers’ and obnoxiously loud music. Perhaps in order to combat widespread apathy, extreme measures may need be taken. Mandatory voting could be enforced by highly encouraging all faculty to dedicate 15 to 20 minutes to allow students to research and vote during class.

In a commuter campus which hosts a high percentage of working class, time-pressed students, it’s unreasonable to expect anything close to a 100 percent voter turnout. When DASB senators need only win 15 percent of the five percent total turnout, or 0.75 percent of the total student population, there is no reasonable way to claim that the appetite of democracy is being satisfied.

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