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UWRF voter percentage ranks low in UW System

May 6, 2010

Voter turnout for Student Senate elections at UW-River Falls is incredibly low compared to other UW campuses.

According to the 2010 senate election overall numbers from Greg Van De Mark, developer of the Student Senate online voting system and employee at UWRF Department of Technology Services, a total of 602 students voted in the spring Student Senate election.

With approximately 6,500 students attending UWRF, this means that just 9.2% of the entire student population voted.

The breakdown for voting in each college is as follows: College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences – 233 votes, College of Arts and Sciences – 206, College of Business and Economics – 60, College of Education and Professional Studies – 103.

According to Student Senate bylaws, students cannot campaign more than two weeks before elections. Students at UWRF campaign by chalking on sidewalks and other things.

“I was part of a coalition called Vote 4 Change, and we had a Facebook fan page, Web site, stickers, fliers and a video,” Nikki Shonoiki, candidate for Student Senate, said.

She also said that Tyler Latz, her competition for president, had his own group of students called the Greek coalition. Latz and his running mate also created t-shirts that people were wearing around campus.

Some candidates created Facebook groups, and there are also notices on the main page of the UWRF Web site and the events calendar explaining when and where the elections take place.

“Online media is the best way to promote it,” Rodney Hillskotter, former Student Senate elections chair, said.

Hillskotter said that there were some issues with promoting the elections this year.

“The new rules [on Student Senate campaigning] say that there should be advertisements that run in the Student Voice,” Hillskotter said. “(We were) not able to get advertisements run in the Student Voice.”

He explained that he thinks that there needs to be a change both in the rules that govern the entire process as well as the transition from one election chair to the next.

“Whoever is the new election chair is given a folder and told ‘here you go, any questions, just ask,’” Hillskotter said.

He said he feels the issue with that is that previous Student Senate officers should go over specific rules with the new officers so they can be followed properly.

“In this particular instance, the folder was not updated, so the rules that were changed in September were not communicated, and there are a lot of vague, uncertain definitions and terms,” Hillskotter said. “There are a lot of things that could be changed to make it more understandable and comprehensive.”

UW-Stout Organizational Affairs Director Josh Fritz, explained that last year they had 2,000 people vote in their student government elections.

“Last year we had the highest election turnout per capita – around a quarter of our campus turned out,” Fritz said. “Last year we had the referendum for the smoking ban, so that got more people to vote.”

This spring, UW-Stout had two different elections: one for senator and one for executive directors. In the senator elections, 662 people voted, and in the executive directors election, 860 people voted. 

This means 16.8% of the UW-Stout population that voted in the election.
This election also had a referendum on the smoking ban which would make UW-Stout a tobacco free campus, according to Fritz. This referendum passed.

Some of the things that students do to campaign at UW-Stout is to go and talk to organizations, tell them what the candidate wants to do and get their name out.

“Some of us have pretty large networks, so we can talk to people,” Fritz said. “People also do Facebook groups, some posters, chalking on sidewalks and yard signs go up on campus.”

Lisa Aarli, UW-Madison student, explained that this spring they had the biggest turnout ever for their student government elections.

“[This is] partly because candidates did a ton of campaigning and partly because of a referendum that students felt strongly about,” Aarli said. “General advertising for the election is done by the Student Election Commission of Associated Students of Madison.”

In the spring 2010 elections, 13,788 students voted. This is 34.5% of the overall student population, according to the election results posted on www.asm.wisc.edu.