From computers throughout campus, undergraduate students began voting Wednesday for their next crop of student government leaders.
The online polls close tonight, following the second and final day of voting. Besides choosing a new Minnesota Student Association president and vice president, students will elect representatives to the MSA Forum, the University Senate and several other positions. They will also decide the fate of three MSA constitutional amendments.
Voting is simple and painless because voters can do it from any computer with Internet access, said Adam Engelman, All-Campus Elections Commission co-commissioner.
“Those shouldn’t be too hard to find on campus,” he said.
The commission, which oversees the annual election, scoured campus with more than 500 election posters Tuesday night. On Wednesday, they sent a mass e-mail to undergraduate students. And today from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. they will hold a get-out-the-vote rally in front of Coffman Union.
The rally, complete with free food and a raffle for prizes, is intended to increase voter awareness, Engelman said.
“We really think (the commission) has increased the marketing from years past,” Engelman said. “We’re trying to do our best to increase voter turnout.”
Last year, only 4,635 out of more than 27,000 undergraduates voted in the elections. That’s 1,200 more than voted in 2003, and 2,300 more than in 2002.
Though they haven’t set any official goals, the commission would be pleased if 5,000 students voted, Engelman said.
The five presidential campaigns spent Wednesday rallying supporters and encouraging students to vote.
MSA presidential candidate Tom Meyer said he planned to set up a booth in front of Coffman Union where students could vote directly from his laptop computer. The campaign also sent e-mail messages to members of their Thefacebook.com group, he said.
Presidential candidate Kristen Denzer said she spent the day going around campus collecting dozens of e-mail addresses. Her campaign plans to send e-mails to those addresses reminding students to vote.
“We’re just going to be out there around campus telling (students) what we’re all about and telling them to go vote,” she said.
Becca Merton, an English sophomore, said she was planning to vote Wednesday.
“I know one person who is running and I agree with her politics,” Merton said.
She said the students who vote in the MSA elections are the ones who really care about the outcome.
“It’s always nice when people give a damn, and they are voting ’cause they want to,” Merton said.
But not all students, including Niel Burns, a neuroscience and Spanish junior, plan on voting this year.
“I just don’t think MSA went out of its way to advertise and
inform people. So, I’m not going to go out of my way; I have a busy schedule,” Burns said.
He said his roommates and other students he talked to felt the same way.
– Cati Vanden Breul contributed to this article.