On February 21, students took to voting booths to cast their ballots for the first day of the Undergraduate Student Government elections. However, many students remain unaware or uninformed of the voting process.
Online voting opened at midnight on USG’s website, and two in-person booths in front of Tommy Trojan and Leavey Library were made available for students to cast their vote.
Students that voted in person were offered Krispy Kreme donuts after casting their ballots.
Outgoing President Hannah Woodworth welcomed voters at the Tommy Trojan booth, commending the “couple hundred people” who showed up to vote for “engaging in their civic duty.”
Yet Vice President Nivea Krishnan, who stood at the Leavey Library booth, described a different atmosphere due to the lack of voter turnout.
“It’s a really interesting dynamic,” Krishnan said. “I think at Senate meetings and inside the office, we hear a lot of buzz about the election. I think for the average student, there’s some confusion about how this election impacts them and how student government impacts them.”
USG Elections have a trend of low voter turnout, with only 4,451 students casting their votes last year. The entire undergraduate population of 21,000 are eligible to vote, however, only one-fifth of this number is likely to participate in the voting process.
Multiple students interviewed for the story admitted to their lack of information about USG elections.
“I’ve seen all the signs and everything, but I don’t know what it is or what they do or where to vote or why I should vote or anything,” said Dean Woods, a freshman majoring in applied and computational mathematics and computer science.
However, Krishnan stressed the magnitude of USG’s role on campus and why voting is necessary, citing USG’s financial responsibility.
“The president, vice president and their cabinet are responsible for setting a $2.5 million budget and allocating that and $350,000 of that budget goes toward [Registered Student Organizations],” Krishnan said. “So if you’re part of any club on campus, if you’re hoping to be a leader in any of those clubs, funding is a huge way that those clubs are able to exist, and that funding comes from student government.”
USG has been responsible for implementing and overseeing many programs on campus. This includes advocating for the now-implemented Fall Recess — an allotted four day break that comes before Thanksgiving Break, the start of the free LAX shuttle service and the planning of Spring Fest and the Welcome Back Concert, according to Krishnan.
Naura Alyabis, a sophomore majoring in biomedical engineering, noticed the voting booths on campus but assumed that they were just for another club. But now that she is aware of what the voting is for, Alybasis said she would consider casting her ballot.
Among the students that did vote today, some were just as uninformed on the platform of candidates and simply cast their ballot in support of a friend.
“My friend was running for president, so I voted for him,” said Julia Hague, a sophomore majoring in human biology. “I don’t really know anything about the policies.”
President Woodworth emphasized the importance of voting and casting your ballot for the candidates that best suit your ideals.
“This is your way to make your voice heard and ensure that your opinions and values are reflected in our student representation,” Woodworth said. “So it’s really important, especially this year, to educate yourselves on the different platforms so that you ensure that the person that you’re voting for actually represents what you think is most important.”
Voting will remain open until Sunday, February 26, with in-person voting booths made available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day.