Machine madness to blame for this year's low SGA election voter turnout



Wyckoff

Another SGA election has come and gone – one much quieter than most. Only 17 percent of the student body even bothered to log on to myBama and cast a vote.

There was an absence of Election Day mania, mostly because there was no need. All but one executive position went unopposed.

Last year, the turnout was almost double that of 2013. There was a sense of urgency and energy in the 2012 election; every position was contested by two or three viable candidates.

But this drastic change is no shock. Last year, the first-time coalition Advance UA paired a formidable candidate against seven candidates backed by the Machine. Every one of the Advance UA candidates lost, and every Machine candidate won.

So it’s no surprise that (almost) no one bothered to run against any Machine candidates this year. When candidates as respectable as last year’s Advance UA ballot lose resoundingly, there’s little hope for others.

Last year’s voting results reminded those unaffiliated with the Machine, “don’t bother,” and naturally, apathy about SGA as a whole spread over the whole campus. No one bothered to run and no one bothered to vote because an underground voting block already decided for us.

This sentiment is worrisome. Ideally, SGA is supposed to be representative of the student body. The current system prevents that, ruining our market place of ideas by squashing any potential outliers.

Admittedly, there are some positives to the voting powers of the Machine. They are able to get leaders elected that they feel will best answer their needs. And usually, these candidates truly are legitimate. There is a large pool of candidates; many will vie for Senate positions against members of their own house.

But because there is not a force to answer and oppose the Machine, this voting block has gained total power of campus elections. They essentially make all decisions for the student body, without their permission. And this is where I believe the Machine fails the student body – in stifling competition.

Without opposing voices in Senate or Executive offices, most SGA decisions become unanimous, unopposed and void of discussion. This void results in no stimulating conversation happening in the SGA office, no potential for thinking “out of the box.”

The voices within the SGA will become increasingly similar; most will have similar views, be involved in similar organizations, and have similar priorities. This will prevent change on our campus because new issues will be unwelcomed or most often, not even introduced.

There have been admirable tasks accomplished by our student representatives in the Ferguson Center – but there could be real good done in new, creative ways if student opinion was properly represented.

This year’s new executive office I’m sure will do a respectable job. However, their impact has been diluted by a weak election turnout. Unfortunately, despite on-campus apathy about SGA, they are the liaison between the administration’s requests and student needs. A word to administration though, our current SGA is not representative of all students’ concerns.

It will take a four-year cycle to flush out current apathy. New students will arrive, eager to change a broken system. Hopefully, the UA community they address will be more open to change and improvement.

SoRelle Wyckoff is a senior majoring in history and journalism. Her column runs weekly on Mondays.

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