DON’T HAVE ENOUGH money to buy an iPad? Need bread from the Pivik, but don’t want to spend Flex dollars? Well, the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa’s (SFUO) elections office would like to change that. All you have to do is vote! Seem a bit like bribery? That’s because it is.
This year, the elections office decided the best way to increase voter turnout for the SFUO elections is to bribe students with shiny toys. It’s like getting a slice of cake if you eat all your broccoli, but instead of needing to eat something healthy to get a reward, you have to vote.
Every undergraduate student should vote in the SFUO elections, but this strategy of bribery could be destructive. Voting is key to the legitimacy of our student federation, and voting blindly—without knowing the candidates, platforms, or affiliations—is no better than refusing to vote in the first place.
With the possibility of so many people voting to have a chance at the iPad, it may attract people to the polls, but instead of making an informed decision, student voters swayed by the promise of a new toy could just check off random names.
Beyond the problem of having so many uninformed people rushing to the polls, bribing the electorate is something the elections office is supposed to stop—not participate in. If it’s OK to bribe someone to vote, why isn’t it OK for a candidate to give out bribes? Or better yet, why can’t I solicit bribes from the candidates? To any candidates listening: I take cash only—no toys—and you don’t get your money back if another candidate out-bids you for my vote.
I’m getting off track—where was I again? Oh yes! If the office established to protect the integrity of the SFUO elections is setting the standard for integrity by handing out prizes for doing one’s democratic duty, how can we expect the candidates to run a clean campaign?
People always complain about the government. Whether it be federal, provincial, municipal, or even student, the first thing I always ask is, “Did you vote in the last election?” More often than not the answer is no, to which I respond, “If you don’t vote, you can’t complain about your government.”
It is the highest obligation of our student body to vote. Instead of giving away prizes to voters, the elections office should be promoting information on the candidates, their positions, and platforms on campus.
Every vote matters and the results of this election will affect campus not only next year, but in years to come.