Joshua Ferrer ’17 writes in about the state of AAS executive elections.
While I have to wait another seven long months before casting my vote in the “real” midterm elections, this past Thursday I had the privilege of voting in an election much closer to home and, arguably, more important to my immediate life: the executive student board of Amherst College. It seemed to me to be an exciting race, with four well-qualified candidates running for the top spot and each offering a different vision of what the future of Amherst holds. Regardless of the winner, the president for the 2014/15 school year will be uniquely situated to influence significant changes in Amherst.
Unfortunately, my fellow students appeared not to share my enthusiasm; despite the competitive presidential and vice presidential elections, voter turnout amounted to little more than 50%. For the country as a whole, this turnout might be written off as mediocre. For an institution such as Amherst, one filled with the brightest students from all over the world, this turnout was a resoundingly sad cry of apathy towards student government.
That being said, the blame cannot solely fall on the student body. I encountered systematic problems with the voting experience, problems that have no excuse for existing and are easily remedied. The primary problem involved the lack of information and outreach involved in the election. There were no nonpartisan posters advertising the voting day and no email remainders the week leading up to the election. For students who do not regularly check their emails, there was no physical voting space (public voting stations in Keefe, Val, and Frost would significantly increase turnout). There was no transcript or video feed of the debate. Also, there was no website or depository of candidate platforms. The Amherst Student itself neglected to print any information on the candidates, ignoring its duty to inform the student body.
While I applaud the 24-hour voting time and online voting, the operation of this election was counter to the principles of free and open elections. I urge the AAS Elections Committee to step up its game and take simple and intuitive measures to increase voter turnout. If an institution such as Amherst fails to effectively manage its elections, it is no wonder America continues to struggle as well.