The turnout during the student elections this year was pitiful. On average, 30 per cent of students go to the trouble of voting for one of the student parties, but this year, that number topped out at 27.9 per cent. The student parties feel that has to change.
Lijst Calimero, Student Organisation Groningen (SOG) and Lijst Sterk have collectively come up with a litany of measures they believe can better get out the vote. Creating informational videos, hanging up posters, organising debates and shortening the voting period are among their proposals.
‘Many students are unaware of what co-determination actually is, and we want to better inform them about that’, says Lijst Calimero’s leader, Daan van Dijk. But the university board is not overly enthused. ‘We question whether these ideas will result in an increase in voter turnout’, the board members wrote in a response to the list. ‘Declining voter numbers is a national trend, and the RUG is actually doing alright, comparatively speaking.’
Be that as it may, the university board is in favour of several of the proposals. Shortening the voting period from seven days to five will be discussed. That change is meant to ensure that students are not swamped with campaign flyers for too long. A week prior to the elections, there will also be a ‘pre-campaign’ period during which students will be informed about what codetermination entails and whom they can vote for.
There will also be faculty guidelines to provide the parties the opportunity to spread their flyers or address their fellow students about their platform prior to lectures. Currently, some faculties do not allow the parties to do so.
But there are several of the plans that the board is not thrilled with, such as reintroducing physical voting booths. ‘The voter may feel pressured to vote because the parties are present there. That would also mean that the campaigning would be relocated to where the voting booths are’, the board members say.
They also find it unnecessary to make it possible to vote via Nestor, because voting through ProgressWWW is ‘very user-friendly’.
The student parties will meet up with the communications department about setting up the pre-campaign period. ‘Beyond that, it’s in the hands of the parties themselves to make voting more attractive’, says SOG chairperson Evan Clark.
On Thursday, the student parties will speak more at length about their ideas to increase voter turnout.