Especially during election season, a common complaint about GUSA is a perception that it has failed to connect to different segments of the student body.
Whether that perception is valid or not, GUSA should make it possible for students who feel that way to register it on a ballot. To differentiate between students with principled objections to the GUSA election process and/or the candidates that are running, and students who simply fail to fill out a ballot, we propose the inclusion of a blank ballot during the voting process.
Participation rates in past GUSA executive elections have hovered around 50 percent of undergraduates. Yesterday’s election was only slightly different, with 46 percent of students submitting a ballot. This disconnect between a large segment of the student population and the election process has often been dismissed simply as apathy. But if GUSA is serious about gauging its success by its ability to reach all engaged students, it needs a way to measure how many people are interested in the election but uninterested in the options on the ballot.
Adding the option to submit a blank ballot in the GUSA election would do precisely that. Voting for no candidate would give concerned students the ability to voice their displeasure with candidates and the process as a whole. GUSA elections, like any other democratic forum, claim to neutrally represent the preferences of the electorate; however, student expression is unduly limited to the particular set of candidates who happen to be running that year or the perennial write-in, Chicken Madness.
The current system prevents students who feel disempowered or oppose current GUSA arrangements from expressing their preferences. If these groups had the ability to register their discontent through the symbolic gesture of the blank ballot, leaders in student government year to year would be better able to determine whether or not they were improving the accessibility and effectiveness of the institution.