Op-Ed

The SFUO by-election is taking place from Oct. 18-20. Illustration: Stefania Kolesarova.

With low voter turnout, the odds are in your favour

The by-elections of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) are taking place Oct. 18–20, and students should take note.

“That’s interesting,” you say. “What’s the by-election about?”

Oh, we’re electing the remainder of the SFUO’s Board of Administration (BOA).

“Uh, ya—I’ll totally maybe try to swing by,” you say as you back out of the room.

But you should swing by, because as much it sounds like the lame party that nobody wants to attend, this election will be directly determining how good this school year is for students.

More importantly, the election is set up to have disproportionate benefits to those who take a minute to vote.

The BOA has more power than you might think in determining SFUO policy. Each member you elect to the BOA will get a vote on and bring forward important matters concerning your school experience—that means they hold the same weight in voting as any member of the SFUO executive.

It’s actually the job of BOA members to bring your concerns forward. At previous meetings, members have referenced concerns from students in their faculties, at some points citing their emails verbatim. For example, the representatives for the Faculty of Medicine once fought for more inclusive SFUO election hours for students with clinical placements.

If you want your voice to be represented at the highest levels of the SFUO, voting for an effective faculty director is the quickest and easiest way to do it.

Also, BOA seats are distributed based on the percentage of students in each faculty.  If some seats in your faculty are left empty, it means your interests aren’t being properly represented in student government.

Carleton’s Constitution and Policy Review Committee recently examined whether or not their student government is properly representative of the student population by representing all faculties fairly. For us, the system is already in place—we just need to act on it.

“Ok, fine,” I hear you say. “It’s important that the seats get filled. But whoever people pick will be fine. I have other things to do besides voting.”

Is it fine? If a subpar candidate gets elected to represent your faculty while others have better candidates, you’re still being underrepresented compared to the other faculties.

And this isn’t some far-off, intangible effect. The people you elect will be going to work this year, not long after the elections are done. So you’re not voting for next year’s students, you’re voting for yourself.

Not to mention that if you’re reading an article on student politics, chances are you know more than most students about the subject, so you’ll likely make a more informed choice than “whoever’s voting.”

Rates of students voting in the SFUO election are bad enough as it is, falling below eight per cent last year. Throw in the fact that this election has no executive nominations or referendum questions, and an increase in turnout doesn’t seem likely.

And if not a lot of people are voting, their interests won’t be represented.

But on the flip side, this dynamic can work to your advantage. If not many people are set to vote, your vote carries even more influence.

If you want a better experience for your faculties, or you just don’t want other faculties to have it better than you do, take a minute to vote on campus—it could have a disproportionately positive effect for you.

Voting is an important way to show involvement and make your student community better. But more importantly, it’s the selfish thing to do if you want to make sure that you have a better time during the academic year.