No famous people will endorse a candidate; no campaign fundraisers will attract national media attention. Ideological party lines will be irrelevant (for once); the terms will only last one year.
More than any federal election, however, this year's Student Government Association election affects you, a student at the University of Tennessee, on a personal level.
Believe it or not, this could be the most important voting opportunity you'll have in your lifetime.
Sound exaggerated? Consider this: in federal elections, the Electoral College ropes individual decisions into large, often-gerrymandered districts. In the 2012 U.S. presidential election, more than 130 million ballots were cast; the Electoral College consists of 538 electors. If you voted, you were a drop in the bucket.
But in local elections, as I have mentioned before , the average voter holds enormous power. It is the state senator who can threaten our student fees; it is the city mayor who can develop our urban wilderness. Political value then, is an inverse relationship – as the election gets smaller, the impact on individual voters gets larger.
That inverse relationship is why this year's SGA election – the smallest election you'll see this year – is hugely important. In 2013, current SGA President Jake Baker won by less than 500 votes. That's, what, two economics classes? Every vote mattered.
And despite popular belief, SGA officials do much more than the general student body gives them credit for. Sure, the organization is decidedly more visible when campaigns pass out Chik-fil-A sandwiches on pedestrian and hawk T-shirts like New York City tourist shops. But just because you only see candidates working for your vote doesn't mean your representatives ever stop working for you.
Take a look at the SGA meter – the current office has accomplished quite a bit. Large group seating at football games; scantrons in POD Markets; parking information in the UT App; increased information for transfer students. Of course, the SGA meter lists eight initiatives that the current administration has failed to start – 53 percent of the 15 initiatives listed. But according to the Tampa Bay Times' politifact.com, President Obama has only kept 45 percent of his promises. And he's doing his promise-keeping as a full-time job, without the distraction of, you know, chasing a degree.
SGA represents you in other ways too. When Panda Express and Raising Canes open on Cumberland Avenue, thank the SGA students who advised Aramark on the decision. When student fees allow you to see famous lecturers discuss the most incendiary subjects of our time, thank the SGA students who battled Stacey Campfield and his cronies in effort to preserve our traditions. When you receive treatment at our state-of-the-art Student Health Center, thank the SGA students who worked with Chancellor Cheek to bring UT up to date.
Imagine what SGA could do if they represented the weight of the entire student body, not the 25 percent of students who voted in 2013. Currently, legislators and administrators alike dismiss the student voice, safe in their assumption that few students care enough to vote anyway. But if we all vote in this year's election – even if half of us cast a ballot – then our collective voice, amplified through whoever we elect, will be hard to ignore.
Unlike vast, national elections that demand all the media attention, the SGA election offers a simple, remarkably fast voting process: visit votesga.utk.edu on Wednesday or Thursday, spend about three minutes selecting your candidates and click the button. (If you feel you don't know the candidates well enough, to read up on all of this year's contenders below).
That's it – quicker than a BuzzFeed quiz, more empowering than voting for President Obama.
You can't be too busy when it's this easy to vote. You can't be uninformed when all the information you need is on Facebook, Twitter and The Daily Beacon website.
And if you think it doesn't matter, then vote all the more – your vote could be the one to change that.
R.J. Vogt is a junior in College Scholars. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
RELATED LINKS: 2014 SGA Candidates