Amid last year’s virtual classes, the 2021 Student Government Association (SGA) election showed a 66% decrease in voter turnout compared to the year prior. While this is understandable given that we were virtual, only 20.3% of students — compared to last year’s 12% — participated in the recent SGA election even now that we’re back on campus.
Whether this low participation compared to pre-COVID-19 years can be explained by a lack of interest, awareness or faith in SGA, it must be improved. Beyond emphasizing that students must exercise their right to vote, we push SGA and the Committee on Student Elections (CSE) to bolster their campaign practices for future elections.
Student government is crucial to the college experience, and elections should be publicized accordingly. This includes more social media advertisement on platforms like Instagram, GroupMe and Facebook as well as creating an on-campus presence by distributing fliers and posters around Hopkins. Additionally, the CSE should send more reminders to students of election protocols, debate timing and ways to cast their vote.
The lack of a visible presence on campus hurt election numbers last year. Now that we are back together in Baltimore, there should be a greater push to increase visibility of the campaigns so that students who were not here before the pandemic gain greater awareness of what SGA actually does and how they can get involved.
Furthermore, due to the short election timeline, many students were left unaware that it was even going on. As in past years, candidates were only given four days to campaign before voting began. This status quo does not provide adequate time to candidates to spread awareness of their platforms or the election itself. Even the Editorial Board struggled to fit in candidate interviews and draft our endorsements in the short time between candidacies being announced and voting closing.
It is unfair to expect candidates to create and execute their campaigning strategy over just four days. CSE must revise its election timeline to make the process more reasonable and effective for all parties.
Also, we ask that CSE bring back petitions, which were removed in 2020 as a result of virtual schooling. We believe collecting signatures was more than a requirement to land a spot on a ticket — it functioned as a valuable method for campaigning. In the search for signatures, candidates were able to make their presence known and introduce their respective platforms before the short campaign period began. Now that we are back on campus and slowly returning to normalcy, why not bring petitions back?
Junior Breanna Soldatelli, SGA executive president-elect, spoke against this policy change in 2020. We’re happy to see a member of the Executive Board already aware of this drawback and hope our newly elected SGA will support bringing back petitions.
Despite low voter turnout, we know students are engaged with campus issues: In 2021, trans students and allies mobilized to protest transphobia in university policies; Only a few weeks later, affiliates called for support for survivors of sexual violence from the University by organizing the Not My Campus protest. By increasing election awareness and participation, SGA can work more actively with the student body to effect the changes students are already seeking independently.
We recognize the undiscovered potential of our student government in organizing campus movements. Last month, SGA worked with several student organizations to plan a vigil for the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. The act of solidarity was effective in bringing our community together during these trying times.
We want to see what SGA could do with greater student support and involvement. Students shouldn’t have to fight individual battles. We deserve representation: Our voices hold inextricable value, but they won’t be heard unless CSE works to increase civic engagement on campus.
This doesn’t stop with student government elections, either: For those registered to vote in their home state, we recommend visiting Hop Votes this Friday to complete absentee ballots and make sure your votes are counted.
As students, we have a vested interest in not remaining complacent. The election process must allow us to make our needs known on campus — our voices matter, so we must use them.