The SGA election season has come and gone, and numbers show that most of campus didn't seem to care enough to participate.
Voter turnout numbers for the 2014 Student Government Association elections were the lowest they have been since 1998 saw 2,421 voters turnout, good for 13.01 percent of UT's 1998-99 enrollment that voted.
Final statistics show that 3,686 students — approximately 13.57 percent of this year's enrollment — voted online during the two-day elections last week.
Records complied by the Office of Student Services reveal that since 1984, voter turnout numbers have not reached beyond the single-digit thousands, with the highest turnout being 7,163 in 2005. Since the year 2000, voter turnout had not dipped below 4,000 – until this election season.
Margaret McCall, an undecided freshman, did not vote.
"The week of SGA campaigns didn't stand out to me much at all," McCall said. "I had no idea when elections were until I got an email urging people to vote as it was in the last days of the election. Once I got onto the website, I felt I was in no place to vote as I had no informed opinion at all.
"I honestly didn't even recognize the candidates' names."
Grant Davis, who currently serves as SGA Student Services Director, was elected to become Trustee Representative starting next year, pending approval by the governor. Davis predicted low voter turnout last week — before the elections started — citing several differences in this year's campaigns compared to last year's season.
"Last year's SGA campaigns were formidable," Davis said. "Engage, Amplify and Baker-Atchley executive candidates and members were very well connected on campus. They also set a record for campaign expenditures and basically turned Pedestrian Walkway into the place to be."
Davis said this year's campaigns used call centers and social media sites to encourage students to vote, a tactic that has been used in the past. But this year's campaigns lacked the infrastructure and manpower to effectively reach out to voters.
"I was on Pedestrian Walkway several times during the week, and it seemed dead," Davis said. "No one was actively engaging campaigns about policy. They were trying to avoid the tents at all costs, and campaign members made minimal attempts to engage the students."
Rather than three fully-formed campaigns, Davis claims there were one and a half campaigns – We Are UT being the only campaign with a full roster of senators.
"It is also telling when a majority of the senatorial candidates are freshmen," Davis said. "This means that the highly-involved and politically well-connected sophomores, juniors and seniors decided to stay on the sidelines this year."
Amanda Prevost, a junior in accounting and international business who has been involved in SGA since her freshman year, said she is disappointed but not necessarily surprised by the low voter turnout numbers.
Campaign energy and momentum were "comparatively low" this year, she said.
"Students who do take time to vote have typically been outreached to, know someone running, or recognize a specific facet of policy they hope to see implemented," Prevost said. "Students often don't think SGA affects them until something goes wrong, and even then, many don't care."
Judd Cowan, a senior in mechanical engineering who managed the [Insert] campaign, said the "split ticket" between Amplify and Engage last year caused many students to see SGA as a "broken system."
This attitude, Cowan said, easily influences new voters.
"When freshmen come in, what they see – as far as they know – is what has always been," Cowan said. "Because SGA has perpetuated a bad history in front of it, people become disheartened immediately."
Voters must be reached out to personally, Davis claims, or they won't care about the elections.
As a non-voting student herself, McCall pointed out that she was not directly approached with platform information.
"I didn't vote because not because I think SGA is frivolous or overrated, but simply because I trusted other voters to decide who the best person for the job was," McCall said, "as I was in no place to know who that would be."