Online voting system exposes voter apathy in school elections

May 19, 2016 — by Kyle Wang

Sophomore shares opinion on how more students should participate in the class/ ASB voting procedure at school. 

In spite of all the buzz generated by the 2016 Presidential Elections among high school students, Saratoga High School’s annual ASB elections passed by quietly this spring.  

And for the second year in a row, only about half of the students bothered to vote.

Many have blamed low voter turnout on ASB’s shift to an online voting system, which was first implemented during the 2014-2015 school year. But these critics fail to see the bigger picture: if students cared about the results of the elections and their student government, they would take the 2 minutes it takes to vote.

On the other hand, online voting may lead to better results; for the most part, only genuinely interested students will vote.

In the past, students may very well have voted for candidates based on popularity instead of merit, or simply ticked off the names that they recognized on the paper ballot. In other words, election results could have been skewed by the very students who have stopped voting today.

This isn’t to say that the current elections process is immune to student biases and opinions. Popularity and recognition still play a major role in deciding the outcomes of elections — it’s no secret that members of ASB and class office have almost always already served before in school leadership.

Sometimes the elections seem almost ceremonial. Students generally win because their names are recognizable, either because they’ve already served on ASB or because they have more friends.

Not convinced? This year, fewer than half of the students who voted even bothered to listen to the candidates’ speeches. At 30 seconds, the speeches are short, but can still be enough to swing an election.

Thirty seconds provides enough time for a candidate to say 75 words — more than enough to establish a general pitch and make a first impression. And the fact that students refuse to take those 30 seconds and listen before they vote says a great deal about the current state of SHS  politics.

Admittedly, it’s ridiculous to expect high schoolers to care enough about  school elections so as to make responsible and mature decisions. Like everybody else who cares about voting, they are subject to whims and biases. And there’s no magical formula to teach educated, objective voting.

Nevertheless, if all teachers, for instance, dedicated time in class for students to watch the campaign videos, students might at least be forced to be more aware of the ongoing elections, even if they cannot be forced to vote.

Ultimately, students must understand that when they cast their votes, they are voting for much more than a single candidate or individual. They are voting for the people who will help plan the events that could very well become some of the formative experiences of their adolescence — Homecoming, rallies, prom — the list goes on.

Choosing not to vote and then blaming ASB for the school’s problems is akin to choosing not to water a plant and blaming it for dying two weeks later.

In other words, it’s not up to ASB or the administration but rather to the students themselves to realize that the fate of their high school years is very much in their own hands.

 

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