Choosing Significance over Seduction

You’re a week away from making a powerful difference to you and every other AU undergraduate student.

The candidates running for this months’s AUSU by-election were announced August 6. Fourteen students from five Canadian provinces are vying for the six vacant council seats. Voting takes place online August 21 to 24.

Stephen Harper liked the idea of summer campaigning so much, he followed AUSU’s lead and called a federal election mid-summer. Unlike the federal election, however, AUSU’s campaign period is much shorter?two weeks as compared to the excruciating 11 weeks of the federal campaign.

AUSU’s by-election has another striking difference from the Canadian federal election: in the AUSU election, each single vote has a powerful impact. Voter turnout for AUSU elections has traditionally been low. In the 2014 general election, fewer than 200 students cast votes; the previous election turnout in 2012 was even more pitiful with only about 100 voters.

Low voter turnout means that each single vote carries a lot of weight. One vote in this by-election can easily mean the difference between 6th and 7th place?the former will land a candidate a seat on council, the latter gets nothing (but can try again next year.) In 2014, candidates were successful with as few as 56 votes; the most votes any one candidate received in that election was 118. With numbers like those, each voter’s influence is significant.

Voting is easy (really, it is!) First, take some time over the next week to learn about your candidates. Then, any time from August 21 to August 24, vote online using the voting link that will be e-mailed to each eligible AUSU member when the polls open.

Learning about the fifteen candidates takes a small investment of time?ideal for essay-procrastination?and will assist you in making an informed choice. Election campaigning, much like your AU studies, is primarily online. Start by going to the AUSU Elections page for an overview of each candidate. On this page, candidates introduce themselves briefly; some have posted campaign posters in pdf.

Next, head over to the AUSU Forums. In the By-Election 2015 forum, students can ask questions of the candidates. This forum is really your only way of discovering what each candidate stands for. Even if you don’t post a question yourself, you’ll learn a lot from reading candidates? responses to other students? questions. Some candidates have also used this forum to post their campaign platforms, and to invite direct questions from students.

In the election forum, what isn’t said can be as important as what is said. Some candidates haven’t responded to any student questions. If That’s an indication of how responsive and engaged they’ll be as councillors, perhaps It’s better to know who those no-shows are ahead of voting day.

Summer isn’t an ideal time to hold an election. Even for those students who toil at their studies during the summer, there are other, often more compelling, things to do. Despite the seduction of summer distractions, if you are eligible to vote, It’s important that you do so. Will you choose significance over seduction next week? It really is up to you.

You don’t have to hold a seat on student council to make a significant difference for you and every other AU undergraduate student. You just have to vote.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario. Follow Barbara on twitter @ThereGoesBarb.