If a stranger told you what to do, you wouldn’t stand for it. Most people would never let a complete stranger control their future and their livelihood, but the unfortunate reality is that thousands of students let this happen when they don’t vote in UF Student Government elections.
Even in the 2016 national election, about 56 percent of registered voters cast ballots. It’s not surprising that SG has even less of a turnout. In Spring 2018, only about 8,388 of UF’s 50,000 student population voted for a Student Body presidential candidate. UF’s turnout is abysmal.
And yet, small, local elections suffer a worse fate. The New York Times reported that only 27 percent of eligible voters vote in municipal elections. Less importance is put on lower level elections because most people don’t understand the importance of lower-level officials. This, unfortunately, is very apparent in UF elections as well. For example, the current education senator won her seat with 75 percent of the vote — or 33 students. There is very little voter turnout for positions that have a huge effect on what gets done in SG. But this isn’t completely the fault of the masses.
Students don’t know who they are voting for. It’s difficult to place members of SG into categories, as there are no clear lines indicating general parties to give students a sense of what policies they are supporting. Like our federal government, SG has two major parties that tend to take up the majority of the vote. For the past few semesters, it’s been Impact Party vs Inspire Party. However, the goals of each party are unknown by the average UF student. In fact, not even the faces of all the senators appear on the SG website. This just proves you should be nice to your classmates — anyone of them could be making decisions that affect your life.
Luckily, it seems like students are starting to care more about important issues. On Sept. 19, about 200 protesters marched on Fraternity Row, demanding that blue lights would be placed there. The amount of people who showed up in support of this protest is overwhelming, but what’s even more shocking is the fact that about 300 people showed up in support of the climate strike and the Green New Deal.
On the other hand, people may have a reason not to show up. Many people argue that protests are not an effective way to initiate policy change as in many cases nothing gets done afterward.
So why should we protest? The answer is simple — it's important for the people in power to know that we are aware of what they’re doing and that we’re not happy about it.
Don’t overlook your future. Don’t overlook SG. Their elections may seem unimportant, but the people we elect have control over our money and quality of life. Even if it may seem unclear, different parties have different agendas, and it’s important to research them — even the non-presidential candidates. Activism is needed throughout our campus in order to enact change, and it starts within the voting booths.
The Editorial Board consists of Zora Viel, Opinions Editor; Amanda Rosa, Editor-in Chief; Kelly Hayes, Digital Managing Editor; and Tranelle Maner, Engagement Managing Editor.
Students sit at voting stations at the Marston Science Library computer lab polling location and cast their votes for last Fall's Student Government elections on Sept. 25. Marston is one of several locations students can vote at on Wednesday.