The USC Undergraduate Student Government began its election Tuesday, opening its online polls at 12 a.m. and physical booths, located in front of the Tommy Trojan, Leavey Library and Lyon Center, at 9 a.m.
To vote in the USG elections, students can visit the USG website where they can read about and vote for both presidential and senatorial candidates. The voting site links students to each candidate’s page on the USG website where they can learn more about their platforms. The physical booths on campus are armed with iPads and a QR code so students can access the voting site in seconds.
Despite USG’s efforts, voter turnout in recent years has been low. Over the past five years, voting peaked in 2015 with 6,027 voters and reached its lowest point in 2016 with 3,700 voters, according to the Daily Trojan. Currently, USC has about 20,000 undergraduate students.
When asked about the low voter turnout, Vaanyasri Goel, the director of elections and recruitment at USG, talked about how students are indifferent.
“I think every year what happens is that people become really callous about it. People feel like it’s fine. We can vote later on ... or why should we even make the effort of doing this,” said Goel.
To encourage students to vote, USG offers In-N-Out to students who participate. On Tuesday, students lined up all the way from Tommy Trojan to the bookstore waiting for their promised burgers.
USC student Brian Kong explained his desire to vote was fueled by the free food. “The culinary incentive was very strong for me and I just had finished class, so it was just on my way. So I had the readily accessible ability to vote and also to get free In-N-out,” said Kong.
Kong was apprehensive about voting because he felt there wasn’t enough differentiation among the candidates and their platforms. “If there was a way in which I could get to know more of the candidates' personalities themselves ... so we can get to know the candidates on a more personal level is what I would try to recommend,” Kong said.
USG has been trying to find ways to make the voting process easier by providing students with an easy access voting link on its social media and by handing out business cards on Trousdale with a link to the voting site. It also sent out a schoolwide email Tuesday reminding students to vote. Candidates running for office have also made frequent appearances in various groups around campus to discuss their platforms.
Despite these efforts from the candidates, many students still aren’t aware of the impact of USG and its accomplishments on campus.
Molly Mitchell, a business student at USC, feels that not enough students are aware of USG accomplishments. “I think if students were aware of what USG is capable of doing, they'd probably vote a lot more just because I didn't even know that Fryft was part of a USG initiative,” Mitchell said.
USG’s accomplishments include programs like free Lyft, fall break, free HIV testing, the Trojan Food Pantry and more, according to USG’s email.
Last year’s USG elections had 4,817 participants, according to the Daily Trojan. This is about 25% of USC’s undergraduate population.
“It's hard to get the word out to 18,000 people to come and vote for one cause. Especially when you don't really know what's going on,” Mitchell said.
Students can find more about the candidates here. The online polls close at 11:59 p.m., Thursday, February 13, while the in-person poll booths are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day through Thursday.