With campaigning for the UNB Student Union General Election underway, the Union hopes to get more students to the polls this year by hitting the streets.
Last year’s election saw a 17.9 per cent voter turnout which was roughly 1000 students, and the current UNBSU is hoping to increase this in the voting period that begins March 3.
“I’d like it to be as high as possible obviously, but I’d be quite happy with 25 per cent,” said current UNBSU president Ben Whitney. “The highest we’ve seen in the past few years has been around 22 per cent.”
Besides distributing posters around campus, the UNBSU will be mobilizing the voting process through a street team that will be walking around campus with iPads. There will be polling stations at the SUB, Head Hall and the science library as well.
“In past years we’ve only done one [polling station] and we’re trying to do three in an effort to get folks out,” Whitney said. “I think once you go up to folks and say ‘Hey, you should vote’ and then show them how to do it on an iPad a lot of folks will generally do it.”
Whitney said that having a strong student voice is important, especially next year in light of the provincial elections.
“If you’re not using your voice, you’re wasting it,” he said. “Whether or not you actually run and have a big part in shaping how things go, that’s one thing. But if you’re not even voting, you’re not even putting your input into who will do that.”
Fourteen positions did not receive nominees and were reopened for nominations on Monday.
The contested positions include both faculty and non-faculty representatives for the Student Union, five executive positions and 12 governing body seats. But Whitney said it’s the people who vote for who will fill them that are most important.
“Student Union’s not about the president or the vice-presidents or whatever,” he said. “It’s about the students who are electing people and putting students into positions. It’s important to be able to vote your opinion on that.”
The campaigning period ends March 2 at 11:59 p.m. with voting beginning March 3 at 12:01 a.m. and ending March 7 at 11:59 p.m. This schedule is a week later than what was originally planned – another result of January’s labour dispute.
“In light of the act that in our first week of nominations there was no one really around, we pushed everything by a week,” Whitney said
But the strike has also drawn home the realization that students’ voices need to be heard.
“Some might neglect [voting] but the more you realize how, recently with the strike and the change the students brought about, things can change,” said Shahla Yousuf, chief returning officer for the election. “The students can change things so this is why we want to make sure to vote.”
Voting for the UNBSU general election will take place under the voting tab on students’ e-services.