ASUI voter turnout surpasses expectations on first day of voting
A mere two hours after the polls opened for the ASUI spring election, approximately 540 students had cast their vote.
At six hours in, the number had climbed to 1,100. At press time, it was 1,350.
For comparison, approximately 750 students in total voted in the fall 2014 election.
The steep increase in voter turnout is due in part to the implementation of a new voting platform, ASUI Elections Coordinator James Morrell said.
Unlike previous years, every University of Idaho student received a ballot in his or her VandalMail inbox Monday morning. This semester’s election may also have a higher voter turnout because every student who votes can be entered into a raffle, rather than only students who vote at tables in the Idaho Commons, Morrell said.
In light of the immense participation, Morrell said tabling events in the Commons were cancelled and not a single vote was cast at the event.
“I think that the convenience of the emailing system is allowing for more votes,” Morrell said. “It makes the voting cycle much easier, and is easily accessible to students.”
UI junior Alexander Milles said he has voted in ASUI elections in the past, and he thought the VandalMail voting system was effective.
“It made voting so much easier,” Milles said.
While Morrell said he can’t speak for future elections coordinators, he wouldn’t be surprised if the system is used again in future elections, given its overwhelming success so far.
In addition to the new voting system, Morrell said the presidential race has charged the elections and almost certainly helped drive voter turnout.
“Based off of the voting statistics, the presidential race has had a very large effect on the election,” Morrell said. “All the candidates have been campaigning well, and it’s showing in the numbers.”
Morrell said the presidential candidates — incumbent Nate Fisher, former ASUI President Max Cowan and ASUI Director of Diversity Affairs Vivi Gonzalez — are all highly experienced and are doing an exceptional job campaigning. He said their concerted efforts to “get out the vote” are almost certainly getting the job done.
Usually, a rough estimate of total voter turnout can be made mid-election, but in this case, it’s harder to say because of the new system, Morrell said. Going into elections, he said the goal was to reach 1,000 votes by the end of the election. The fact that they met their goal six hours in makes him confident about how the rest of the election will go, Morrell said.
With three experienced candidates vying for the presidency and 10 senate-hopefuls railing for eight open seats, the election is still anyone’s game.
Milles said he voted in the election because he wanted his voice to be heard.
“The University of Idaho is focusing on enrollment, but forgetting about the enrolled,” Milles said. “I think voting will help by picking a representative that accurately represents the whole student body and not a part of it, and that picking someone who is more understanding of students will lead to a better campus.”
Hannah Shirley can be reached at email@example.com