As students shuffled to their classes Tuesday, it was difficult for them to miss the chalk messages under their feet and the masses of fliers being handed out by the Rock. However, the enthusiasm of the candidates and campaigners didn’t translate into a large voter turnout, as only about 41 percent of the undergraduate student body took the time to vote, according to ASG.
“I view ASG as pointless, or something to put on your resume,” said Deandra White, a Weinberg sophomore. White said she didn’t vote her freshman year because she was unfamiliar with the candidates.
This year, however, she voted for Neal Sales-Griffin and Mike McGee, citing personal connections to them. She said she was in a class with Sales-Griffin, and that she is a close friend of people working on Mike McGee’s Web site.
Ahead of Thursday’s run-off election, current and past candidates, as well as students, said social connections and technology are key factors in turning out the vote.
Current ASG President Jon Webber said personal connections were the most important part of his campaign last year.
“The biggest effect on people is when their friends tell them something,” he said. Without that, he said, students are rarely motivated to vote or become involved.
“For the most part,” Webber added, “students don’t know what’s going on with ASG.”
Current presidential front-runner Neal Sales-Griffin said he has definitely witnessed a lack of knowledge about the election process during his campaign. Curled up in a blanket and sitting on a bench in front of University Hall on Tuesday, the SESP junior spoke with students while nearby campaigners wearing “I <3 NSG” stickers distributed neon-colored fliers.
“The majority of people I have met have been like, ‘What are you talking about? Get away from me,’” he said in regards to campaigning. Sales-Griffin attributed some of the apathy to the way ASG leadership is currently run.
“As a senator, I didn’t always see the ASG president as a leader,” he said.
Webber agreed that ASG had not always been very visible, but attributed this to the nature of the system. One of his most important duties included submitting budget requests, many of which he will not receive confirmation for until after a new president is elected. Webber said things he has done, such as garnering approval for expanded wireless Internet on campus, have mostly gone unrecognized by the students.
“One of ASG’s weak points is communicating with the campus about what accomplishments we have,” he said. Webber added that ASG’s role is not necessarily supposed to be revolutionary.
“I’m not trying to start rallies or cause chaos, because that burns bridges,” he said.
Some students felt that ASG is more effective when focusing on smaller, but still important, issues. Kevin Rinz, a Weinberg sophomore, based his votes partly on reading information online.
“The plans they had seemed small enough that they could actually carry them out,” he said.
Rinz is among several voters who said they have used Web pages to make their voting decisions. Candidates and campaigners cited the use of technology as being one of the major differences compared to last year’s election, and a way in which ASG is trying to be more relevant to students.
“The technology being used is much more advanced,” said Scott Burton, a Weinberg junior who ran for president this year and received 15.1 percent of Tuesday’s vote. “It’s a whole different ballgame.”
Senior Corey Merill was nearby, assisting Burton’s campaign by handing out candy to students passing by on Tuesday. She discussed what kept Northwestern students from voting, despite the relatively convenient online ballot.
“In general, at Northwestern there’s a lack of school spirit,” Merrill said. “They probably don’t vote because they don’t know enough about the candidates.”
This has been one of Sales-Griffin’s biggest challenges in the elections.
“For the past week most of my position has been just getting people to vote,” Sales-Griffin said. “It’s been mixed results.”
Sales-Griffin and the other presidential candidate, Mark Crain, have been promoting accessibility to students as part of their platforms, in hopes that this will change students’ indifference towards the student government.
Sales-Griffin said he hoped everyone would vote, even if for other candidates.
“This is the opportunity for students to finally weigh in,” he said.