So, here we are again. Take a trip to uni and you will see banners hung as far as the eye can see. Even living all the way in Spain, I can’t scroll the timeline without seeing a million and one new campaign videos.
It can only mean one thing. The Union Leadership Race is upon us.
But, despite this constant bombardment, do any of us actually care?
Ultimately, we should. This election will decide who is going to represent us in every aspect of uni life. The six chosen candidates will be responsible for everything from social activities and student welfare to course content and diversity. It goes without saying that these issues are fundamental to us all during our time at Leeds. Therefore, we need to ensure that we elect a Student Exec that best reflects us and our needs.
So then, in spite of this obvious importance, why do a significant number of us remain uninterested in the leadership race? Out of a total 34,000 enrolled students, a mere 6,561 of us bothered to vote in 2017, a fall in over 1000 votes since 2016.
And this lack of interest is not unique to choosing our Student Exec. More recently, the Union held referendums on snacks in the library, zero-emission buses and laundry credits, all of which failed to attract more than 0.003% of enrolled students. As a result, none of these motions managed to achieve a fraction of the votes required to pass.
It’s not to say that this popular indifference has gone unnoticed. In 2017, LUU adopted many techniques in order to increase voter turnout. In exchange for voting, students were offered free printing credits as well as vouchers for food and drink at various vendors throughout the union. This year, similar tactics have been employed. Every student to participate in the election will be immediately entered into a draw. As more and more people vote, the prizes get bigger and better.
Now, this is all very well and good should it attract more voters. However, should we really be bribing students before they take an interest in union politics?
When I vote, I vote to have my voice heard and my opinions reflected in the decisions made on my behalf. Whilst I may like a drink, I’m not voting to get a free pint from Old Bar.
This blatant lack of interest really does call into question the relevancy of the election. As a decision that will affect us all, we must recognise the democratic importance of our vote. Speaking for myself, this is not a decision that I want made for me.
All things considered, I think it comes down to what the Student Exec actually does for us. Although always working to improve our time at Leeds, its impact is still widely unacknowledged by students. In order for the leadership race to be relevant, we need to make our elected representatives relevant. Then, and only then, will we see an increase in voter turnout.
(Image courtesy of LUU)