By: Del Suggs, M.S.Ed. | Article from 2016 Summer CLT Magazine
It’s a problem on campuses across the country. Whether you have 600 students, or 60,000 students, it seems like almost nobody bothers to vote in campus elections. You might have great candidates or you might have terrible candidates. It doesn’t seem to matter, because nobody votes anyway.
We’re all too familiar with apathy on campus. It’s a challenge just to get students to go to class, much less attend a program or event. When it comes to getting students to vote in campus elections, you might as well just forget it.
Except you can’t forget it. Elections are important. The leaders your students select will set the tone for the entire campus. These student leaders may make great decisions to set your college on a new course towards service and involvement. Or they may set out to capture the “Top-Ten Party School” title. Elections are important.
There are a lot of ways to get more students to participate in your campus elections. Check out these suggestions.
MAKE VOTING SIMPLE
The first technique for improving your election participation is to go online. It you are still using paper ballots on your campus, you will be relieved that you will no longer have to count all those votes by hand.
Consider this: did you know you can hold elections with your campus Blackboard or Moodle system? You’ll have to work with your campus technology department to set it up, but many schools elect their campus leaders via Blackboard.
If you can’t utilize campus Blackboard system, here’s another idea: Google Drive, Survey Monkey or Zoomerang. If your student services department has an account with any of the online survey sites, you can use them for balloting.
First, go to your survey account and create an electronic ballot. You can phrase your questions as multiple choice, and have each candidate as a possible answer. You can utilize the logic programming so that when students answer specific questions (“Are you a Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, Senior, or Graduate Student”) then the survey will only allow them to answer certain questions. For example, you can use this method to insure that only seniors vote for the senior representatives for Student Senate.
There are also other safeguards you can put in place to limit election tampering, stuffing the ballot, and other election fraud. You should always have a warning at the beginning of the electronic ballot with warnings such as:
“You are only allowed to vote once. If you attempt to log-on and vote a second time, all of your votes will be invalidated.”
Even if you don’t have the ability to track voters and determine if they are voting multiple times, that warning alone will deter most students from attempting to vote a second time.
You can also use specific online election software for your elections. There are free software programs available like “BallotBin,” as well as inexpensive paid programs like “Balloteer.” You might want to invest in your own elections software. Perhaps you can convince the Dean or President to make the purchase with school funds and use it for Faculty Senate elections, too.
MAKE VOTING EASY
Whether you use Blackboard, Moodle, your Survey Monkey account, or install software like Balloteer, you’ve still got to get students to vote. Here are a few quick suggestions to get your students to complete that ballot.
First, hold voting over several days, but not too long. It’s important to have a sense of urgency over your elections. You could have two or three days of voting, but no more than a week. If you give students too much time, they will never get around to voting.
Second, send out emails to all of your students reminding them to vote. Include the link to the online ballot in the email, so they can click and vote easily.
Third, announce and remind your students to vote on your Facebook pages and your Instagram and Twitter feed. Always include that link to the online ballot.
Fourth, when you post banners and posters reminding students to vote, include a QR code on the poster which links to the online ballot. That way, a student can just whip out their smart phone, scan the QR code, and vote. You can’t get any easier than that. You can create a QR code for free at www.Goo.gl or www.zxing.appspot.com.