THE INDIFFERENCE and general lack of interest of many Thomasians limited the voter turnout in the Central Student Council (CSC) election to just barely two-thirds of the student population for the past eight years.

According to data from the Central Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Registrar’s Office, voter turnout last year was only 64.21 percent, a little higher than the 61.93 percent in 2013.

In 2012, voter turnout stood at 64.27 percent, slightly lower than in 2011, when there was a 64.5 percent turnout.

The years 2008, 2009, and 2010 had the lowest voter turnout in the past eight years, recording 58.86 percent, 54.71 percent and 59.21 percent, respectively.

It was in 2008 when CSC polls were first automated. In the previous year, 61.26 percent participated in the University-wide polls.

The 61 percent average voter turnout in the CSC election since 2007 is proof that Thomasians do not value their right to vote, Central Comelec Chairperson Julia Unarce said in an interview with the Varsitarian.

“’Yung 27,000 out of 40,000 [number of votes], that’s big pero paano yung iba? Nagiging issue ‘yung not all Thomasians have the initiative, the encouragement to vote,” Unarce said. “For some Thomasians, elections are just an event that we need to hold.”

Education Comelec chair Joanna Liwanagan said Thomasians should not be “apathetic” during elections to have leaders who are not indifferent to their concerns.

“Apathy is the main reason why there is a low voter turnout as some students choose to do other things than to vote responsibly,” she said.

Helping the Thomasian to vote wisely

Unarce said the affinity of colleges to politics where a student is enrolled in plays a major part in determining if there will be a high or low voter turnout.

For liberal arts students of the Faculty of Arts and Letters (Artlets), who “have a natural inclination to politics,” recording a 70 percent turnout last year was “still low.”

“Compared to other colleges, 70 percent is quite high already. Pero sa AB, maliit since we are exposed politically,” Kathleen Ong, chair of Artlets Comelec said. “That’s why our goal for this year is increase it to at least 90 percent of the total population in AB.”

Scheduling the elections when majority of the students are available was also crucial to have a high turnout, according to College of Fine Arts and Design Comelec chair Danielle Zuniga.

In 2012, there was a low voter turnout in CFAD because the elections were scheduled during the “thesis week” of the seniors when classes for students in the lower years are suspended, Zuniga said.

“So what the Comelec did [in the succeeding years] was adjust it to when the students from the lower years can vote,” he said. “For the past [years], students from the lower years made up the majority of the number of votes.”

Graduating students have the tendency to skip voting “because they think [the elections] would no longer affect them,” Zuniga added.

Patricia Cagamapan, Faculty of Pharmacy Comelec chairperson, echoed Zuniga, noting that only 25 percent of senior Pharmacy students voted last year.

The Central Comelec plans to decrease the apathy among Thomasians by using social media and different gimmicks such as Twitter hashtags, statement photos and signboards that highlight the importance of practising the right to suffrage.

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Failure of elections

Despite a mediocre voter turnout in the past years, the Central Comelec has not proclaimed a failure of elections in the CSC. However, there were cases of some faculties and colleges in the University where there was a failure of elections.

According to the UST Student Election Code (USEC) of 2011, a college or faculty must tally at least a 25 percent voter turnout to validate an election, otherwise a failure of election will be declared.

Should a college or faculty declare a failure of election, a special election must be held within 30 school days after the proclamation of the failure of elections.

The Conservatory of Music had failure of elections in 2011 and 2012 for not meeting the voter turnout quota.

In the 2011 polls of the Conservatory, only 157 students out of 671, or 23 percent of students, voted during the elections, while in 2012, Music had a turnout of 22.15 percent or total number of 144 voters from 650 students.

Meanwhile, a special presidential election was held at the College of Education last year after the lone bet, Juan Carlo Dela Paz, failed to win the presidency after obtaining more abstentions than votes.

The Education Comelec failed to declare a winner yet again after the majority of class presidents who joined in the second special elections abstained. On the third poll, Dela Paz finally won.

The Faculty of Engineering also held a special election after presidential bets Nielsen Ignacio and Kyra Porciuncula both tallied 1,790 votes.

Engineering Comelec chairperson Hannah De Leon said the stalemate was resolved through manual elections won by Ignacio. Angeli Mae S. Cantillana and Mary Grace C. Esmaya


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