Students not voting turn short-term decisions into long-term consequences

Courtney Bannatyne, BEAT REPORTER
Red River College voting polls show low voter turnout. THE PROJECTOR/ Courtney Bannatyne

Red River College voting polls show low voter turnout. THE PROJECTOR/ Courtney Bannatyne

Red River College students say they don’t vote in student association polls because they don’t think it affects them, and the SA isn’t working to change that mindset.

“This is Red River College,” said Adam Taplin, RRCSA president. “You’re here for a year – two years tops. [The mentality] is, ‘I don’t care who next year’s president is going to be because I’m not going to be here.”

Taplin said voter turnout at the most recent student election was around nine per cent.

When students voted in the RRC U-Pass referendum for the 2013-2014 year, 15.6 per cent of students voted. The students’ association bylaws state that at least 20 per cent of RRC students need to participate in order for their votes in a referendum to count.

The majority of students who voted were in favour of the U-Pass, so the referendum would have been passed if 4.4 per cent more students voted.

In regard to the U-Pass, Taplin said since that decision takes time to legislate, students won’t care about it.

“[U of M] started the whole U-Pass conversation. It took them, like, three years to actually initiate it and make it a thing for this September,” Taplin said. “That’s not going to affect a single student in this room, so they don’t care.”

But voting for things like SA elections and the U-Pass does affect students, Taplin said, even if they won’t be at the school to see the result.

“You don’t know if your brother, or sister, or a friend, your cousin, is going to end up coming here next year,”he said.

Jenissa Fey, a first-year student in the youth recreation activity program, said she thinks students don’t vote, since they don’t think they’ll be affected.

“If I’m only staying here for a year, then I wouldn’t waste my time voting for the year after,” Fey said.

She’d be more inclined to vote for future years, she said, if she knew what the cost was for not voting.

“Let the students know what’s the importance of voting, and what would happen if we do not vote,” she said. “For the U-Pass thing, I bet you anything if [RRCSA] had people more aware of that, more people would have voted.”

She thinks voting is important, she said, but she would like to see more effort to get students to vote.

Taplin said it’s important for students to recognize their responsibility to vote.

“It really comes down to this group of students,” he said. “You guys have to decide what it is you want for the future.”

He thinks voter turnout will continue to be low, he said, but he remains hopeful more students will vote, though the SA doesn’t have specific plans to increase voter turnout.

“Every year is different — every group of students is different,” Taplin said. “So I could be pleasantly surprised.”

Peilin Yang, a first-year international business student said she won’t vote in the students’ association elections.

“To be honest, for me, it seems like it doesn’t matter who is in the position actually,” she said. “I think that it’s not related to my benefit.”

The students’ association elections are every April. She said she’d only vote if she knew the person running.

“Or if they advertised it, it may be different,” Yang said. “At least I’d know them better.”

The next student elections are in April 2017, and there aren’t plans to conduct another U-Pass referendum.