Why should you vote?

File photo. “This is your chance to exercise your democratic right, and have your voice heard.” (League of Women Voters of California / Flickr)

Next week, BU students will choose their new BUSU executive and council, elect student senators, and representatives to several boards. In recent years, much like in federal elections, voter turnout has been extremely poor at BU. In fact, it is not uncommon to see less than ten percent of the student population cast a ballot. This trend is not unique to BU. At the University of Manitoba last year, only 7.3% of students came out to the polls.

Just some of the reasons voiced include, “I don’t have time,” or “I don’t know anyone who’s running,” and the ever-popular “I really don’t care.” If any of these sound familiar to you, here are five reasons why you should care, and take the time to vote.

1.    It takes very little time.

Voting literally takes two minutes. Walk up to the polling station, show your student ID card, get your ballot, mark your choice, put it in the box – you’re done. Even informing yourself on the different candidates is incredibly easy. Most campaigns have websites or Facebook pages to showcase their platforms and highlight issues they believe to be important. Attending debates can help you put a face to the name, and attendance allows you to ask questions – or simply get to know the candidates. In total, making an informed decision and voting takes only a couple of hours (maximum) out of your time.


2.    It gives you the right to complain.

There is nothing more annoying than people who complain about their student representatives and the decisions they make all year long, but have failed to actually vote. When you cast your ballot, you are putting your faith in the candidate for whom you voted. You can hold them accountable throughout the year, and remind them of their election promises. If your preferred candidate doesn’t make it into office, you can still hold the winner responsible, and scrutinize their decisions. Your voice will carry very little weight if people know you didn’t bother to vote.


3.    Your vote makes a difference.

Due to BU being a relatively small university, your vote can actually make a difference. For example, last year only 77 votes separated the top two candidates for President. In an institution with a total student population of approximately 3,000, that is a very slim margin of victory. Additionally, BU’s size allows you to get to know candidates personally and really become engaged in the electoral process. Unlike the University of Manitoba, with a total enrollment of over 29,000, the students running here are the same people you see in the halls every day and in your classes.


4. These people are going to spend your money.

Like it or not, as a full-time or part-time student, you are a fee-paying member of BUSU. For the 2012-13 academic year, all students paid $10.02 for every three credit hours of classes. For a student with a full course load, that totals $100.20 – a substantial amount considering the number of complaints about the $15.51 U-pass fee. This year, BUSU’s budget indicated $210,210.05 of income from student union fees. The total budget was for $483,916.36 – almost half a million dollars. The rest of the money comes from contracts, grants, services, revenue from various events such as Rock the Block, and reserve funds. BUSU must produce a balanced budget each year, and cannot run a deficit. That is a lot of money to divvy up, and every year there are debates as to where it should be spent. Informing yourself of the issues and casting a ballot gives you a voice in these decisions.


5.    It is a right and a privilege.

You don’t have to go back very far in history to find a time when not everyone could vote. In fact for the better part of the evolution of “democracy,” unless you were an elite male member of society, you could not participate in the electoral process. How would you feel if all these positions were appointed, and you had no say? This is your chance to exercise your democratic right, and have your voice heard. Populations fought for many years to earn all citizens the right to vote. It is not only a right, but a privilege – don’t put it to waste.

Regular polling for the BUSU elections is on March 18th and 19th. You can vote in the Mingling Area and at various other locations across campus. Take two minutes out of your day, cast your ballot, and make your voice heard.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 24, March 12, 2013.

Don’t want to take our word for it? Even Rick Mercer agrees voting is a good thing!