By Mesquite Editorial Board
To avoid low voter turnout in Student Government Association elections the week of Sept. 24, SGA will need to rely on the help of student life and student affairs to come up with a system that encourages voter participation.
The application process for SGA officer positions for president, vice president and school senators began Sept. 10 and ends Sept. 14. During the four day period, candidates are required to submit their physical application in Room 104 of Brooks City-Base Campus or Room 339 of Main Campus Building. Candidates cannot submit their completed applications electronically.
Voting days will be Sept. 24 and Sept. 26 at Main Campus and Sept. 25 and Sept. 26 in Room 104 of Brooks Campus.
SGA has not announced whether paper ballots will be the only acceptable voting method in the fall election. But if it is, that’s a hard sell for students attending a commuter campus.
The availability of digital polls may be the most effective way for SGA to reach the campus community. Finding the right room, gas mileage and schedule conflicts are all common reasons students say they don’t vote. Widening access will encourage more students to participate in the voting process.
A digital polling system ensures fair and accessible voting access for all students who attend Texas A&M-San Antonio. According to enrollment services Director Margie Vasquez, enrollment was 4,186 on Sept. 10. Every one of those students deserves the chance to vote.
Former SGA President Zaira Rodriguez should be congratulated for volunteering time to resurrect SGA but some of the problems that led to SGA’s vulnerable state are in danger of being repeated.
SGA’s volunteers should look outside our campus community for support and take notice of other small member campuses in the A&M System who rely on digital voting to reach a higher percentage of voters. SGA should also ask for assistance from departments within the University who can assist, including student affairs and information technology services.
Online polling/voting is a frequent practice at A&M-San Antonio. The administration had made use of it to gather responses on a wide variety of issues, including advising and student housing. Through digital polling, the students’ vote was tallied in rejection of a recreational fee. The student vote was also a factor in overturning the University’s plan to have one graduation ceremony.
Students have been able to play a major part in University decisions by voting through past polls via SurveyMonkey.
Providing wide voting access during SGA elections should be no different.
Like past surveys, students should only have access to the online poll through Jaguar email or the banner system, which requires students to vote using their K-number and/or personal login information to ensure security and efficiency.
A&M-Central Texas, a new campus that was approved in May 2009 as the tenth university in The Texas A&M University-System, has made digital polls available to their students.
J.Z. Bales, student body president at A&M-Central Texas, said they used Balloteer, an online election tool, to design the digital ballot for spring elections, which according to Bales is “a pretty simple process.”
“A secure link to the ballot was distributed to the students, who then utilized their UID — university identification number — to vote,” Bales wrote in an email.
Counting the ballots via digital voting could also ensure accuracy, with computer-tracked tallying and secured access.
To make an election work effectively, providing equal access is top priority.