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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Why the USG Elections Sucked


Exhaustion hung like vapor in the fishbowl where the Elections Committee met for the last time. Virginia’s newborn was the only person in the room with the guts to vocalize her frustration. The rest of us sort of stared through each other and past the weeping baby while Albert, the chair of the Elections Committee and the only reason any of us had put effort into the election, told us that only 118 people had voted.

It was Wednesday, midway through elections’ week, and there were all kinds of logistical excuses for the low voter turnout. But we all knew the truth. The only people that care about UMB elections are the friends of the candidates. Everyone else just feels like they don’t know enough, or care enough to vote. Each year student elections are a contest for which candidate has the most committed friends. The Senate seats don’t even get contested. There are thirty available, and this year there were only 16 people running.

The Elections Committee met on the second floor of the Campus Center, in a fishbowl where two people were studying for a chemistry exam. The meeting consisted of Albert, me, Cory, Ruth, a girl who never introduced herself, Virginia and her baby. None of us really wanted to be there, and the fact that less than 1% of the UMB student body had voted made us feel all the more pointless. “Most of those votes came in on Monday,” Albert said. “So it’s mostly the candidates and people in clubs voting right now.” We’d been working for weeks to set up promotional materials for the election, and now the voting system was breaking down. SA Groups had excluded 4,000 students from the election, and the candidates were already pointing fingers and claiming campaign fraud.

Henderson/McDowell had hung up several large signs around campus, and apparently the election laws only allow each ticket to hang up one large sign, up to 6ft x 6ft on campus. Madelon/Little had passed out a few magazines, priced $5 each. These had an article about Madelon in them. The election laws also say that candidates can’t pass out more than $150 worth of material during campaigns. These two infractions caused a flurry of angry emails and hushed conversations in corner offices of the Campus Center.

Albert explained that he and Shelby were slowly solving these logistical problems. The presidential candidates also wanted us to start using paper ballots for the last half of elections. Last year, a record 1/15th of the student body voted because the elecitons committee used paper ballots, but that year there had been tens of people working on the election. It seemed like without the paper ballots we were doing the candidates a disservice. Suddenly the girl who had never introduced herself stood up, “Is this the USG meeting?” No. We’re the Elections Committee. None of us are running. “I’m in the wrong place then. Sorry. I’m looking for money for my club.” That’s not us. They’re meeting in the ballroom. She left.

A few minutes later I left the meeting as well, numb and uninspired. I’d organized the debates and commissioned artwork for t-shirts and stickers. I’d skipped out on a few articles and a few classes for the sake of the elections. Now I wonder what’s the point of having a contest for student government, if no one cares? Why organize a debate if the debate doesn’t really clarify anything or create any sort of campus community? Henderson and Madelon aren’t that different. Everyone that goes to UMB wants a robust education, and a place where we can make friends to go drinking after classes with. But I think we’re all way too apathetic to make that happen.