Homecoming Voter Turnout Trumps Student Body Elections

EMILY BEAMAN | THE SPECTRUM
EMILY BEAMAN | THE SPECTRUM

North Dakota State students have the opportunity to vote twice a year, but homecoming and student body elections were widely divided in voter turnout in 2015.

Of the 14,516 students enrolled for fall 2015, 3,109 voted for homecoming queen and king Oct. 6-7. During the April 8-9 student body elections, 1,734 students voted out of 13,210 eligible to do so. The difference in numbers, while vast, is “oranges and apples,” said Thomas Peterson, Blue Key Honor Society president.

“You have to take into account that you have 12 of the most active people on campus raising awareness about (homecoming’s) election,” he said. “Not to mention that king and queen (are) all part of the hype surrounding Homecoming Week.”

Apathy 

Prior to NDSU’s spring 2015 student body elections, an NDSU Student Announcement Listserv told students, “Vote Today! … Tell your friends – We want the highest voter turnout in NDSU history!”

Just over 13 percent of the student body voted.

“The total voting turnout last year was obviously a little disappointing,” said Eric McDaniel, student body president.

McDaniel added that student government will be making changes to its election code “to allow candidates more flexibility for outreach.”

“We will also create more opportunities for students to become engaged through the voting process,” he said.

Compared to spring 2014 student body elections, the 2015 election saw a 7 percent drop in voter turnout, or over 1,100 students.

“We’re really disappointed with the voter turnout – 1,700 people is, honestly, pretty sad,” Robert Kringler told The Spectrum in April.

Kringler and Aaron Weber ran against McDaniel and student body vice president Josh Fergel in last spring’s election.

King and queen 

Turnout for homecoming elections, meanwhile, was “great,” Peterson said.

For 2015’s homecoming charity, Peterson said he and co-producer Sarah Russell decided on a coronation sponsor, Gate City Bank, to match each vote with $1 as a way to raise awareness and funds for the homecoming show.

Blue Key selected Wellspring for the World, a safe drinking water advocate, as homecoming’s charity. Gate City Bank matched votes for king and queen with $1 per vote given to the charity.

“I think that the sponsorship from Gate City Bank added incentive for everyone to spread the word about (homecoming) elections and for students to vote,” Peterson said.

McDaniel said the comparison between homecoming and student body elections is not an easy one.

“In student body elections, students are only voting for candidates based on their opinion on their platform points,” he said. 

He added that all of the 12 homecoming court members help garner votes for king and queen by connecting with students across campus.

McDaniel, Fergel, Kringler and Weber campaigned by visiting student organizations and through Memorial Union booths and social media.

Blue Key notified students about homecoming elections through Memorial Union booths, Listserv emails, Facebook and classroom plugs, Peterson said.

Homecoming king and queen Phillip Wanner and Katie Martinez both said the incentive of Gate City Bank’s donations to Wellspring probably contributed to the homecoming voting turnout.

“I have been told in the past we have eclipsed 2,000 (voters), so to hit over (3,000) seems like a good sized increase,” Wanner said. “There are 14,000-plus students on this campus, so a few more probably could get out and exercise the option to vote, as that would mean more positive involvement on campus.” 

“I think that the 3,100 number was also influenced by the fact of the dollar (donation) by Gate City Bank to Wellspring. Our NDSU community loves service and jumps on any chance to give back,” Martinez said. “It was shocking.”

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