Yesterday, Amherst students went to the online polls to cast their vote for the AAS president and vice-president. Well, some of them at least, if yesterday’s run-off election was anything like the previous year’s run-off, in which 797 of the 1414 students eligible to vote actually cast a vote for AAS president. As a percentage that translates into a voter turnout of about 56 percent, which is fairly close to the voter turnout of 58 percent in the 2012 US presidential election. That is not to say, however, that they are comparable because they are not. All that an Amherst student has to do to vote in the AAS election is click a link in an email, and the number of students that do not vote does seem alarmingly high.
The first cause that comes to mind is that students are exceedingly busy and do not feel that their choice of an AAS presidential candidate will have an impact on their personal lives. To an extent, this may be true. The AAS is not a radical institution. Many of its functions are budgetary and bureaucratic, and its ability to implement substantive change is limited by the administration and factors beyond the control of its members. Nonetheless, students’ apathy and difficulty in differentiating between candidates in a large part has to do with the lack of transparency in the AAS. Perhaps out of modesty or a fear of irritating students, the AAS does not seem to actively publicize its accomplishments, and most students are not well informed about its actions and the individuals responsible for implementing them.
AAS elections are not of monumental importance like national and state elections, and complaining that not voting in AAS elections is a dereliction of democratic duty is a loaded claim. Rather, the low voter turnout in AAS elections is disappointing in the same way as the low turnout at most athletic and extracurricular competitions (and perhaps the low readership of this editorial). AAS candidates spend a tremendous amount of time and effort campaigning, and the least that we can do is take a minute to show that we appreciate everything that they are attempting to do to improve the campus community.