Once a year, UC Santa Cruz students have the full attention of the university. From May 15 to May 22, the campus elections can demand concessions from the university — but only if we break historical patterns of low voter turnout.

In 2022, the total student voter turnout (undergraduate and graduate students combined) for UCSC elections was 24.57 percent (an increase of about 20 percent from the year prior), but measures on the ballot require a minimum 25 percent voter turnout to pass. 

In 2022, Measure 76, which would have re-established funding for the Sustainability Office, had over 79 percent support from students who did vote. The measure failed as only 23.53 percent of the combined student population voted in the election, less than two percent short of the 25 percent turnout needed to pass. 

Measure 77, which would have provided compensation for student workers at KZSC Radio, had over 76 percent student approval. It saw only a 23.08 percent voter turnout, and thus did not pass. 

And in 2021, a SUA Constitutional Amendment, which would have balanced the power dynamics in the SUA before its in-fighting in 2022, received just 3.65 percent voter turnout.

Change can’t just be a buzzword. It shouldn’t be something we throw around with empty promises. 

Under our current systems, change happens through voting, by actually taking the power offered to us and putting it to use. 

It’s easy to be discouraged by state and national politics. The electoral process consistently churns out politicians who do not properly represent majority voices and neglect our basic needs. 

Furthermore, voting restrictions perpetuate these cycles. And when the power of young voters shines through, lawmakers worry that their positions, usually held in place by the minority voice, will be threatened.

Why should anyone feel like an individual vote matters when their government doesn’t give them any proof that it does? Why should we feel inspired to take control over a government that tries to distance itself from the people it is supposed to serve?

Campus elections can give us a chance, but only if we’re willing to take it.

We’re automatically enrolled to vote, the ballot is open for a full week, and the voting takes place online. 

The measures and government candidates that will be on that ballot are student-based. All we have to do to be more directly involved in our college experience, is approve them on the ballot in high enough numbers. 

To be informed in those decisions, we have to be willing to put in the time to understand measures, to know the people we’re putting in power. 

Last year, less than one-fourth of the student population voted in the Student Union Assembly (SUA) election. Moreover, only 1,816 of the 16,317 student population voted for former SUA president Alfredo Gama Salmeron. 

We need to care about who represents us. The campus is not just an entity that exists around us — we are the campus. We shape it, and we have the responsibility to do so and ensure that it serves both ourselves and our fellow students. 

With the 2023 SUA elections fast approaching, it’s imperative that we learn from the past and understand that choosing not to vote has a real impact.                                          

This is our school, and voting in campus and SUA elections is the opportunity we have to really act like it. 

Showing up to vote has meant funding for student-directed cultural arts performances and campus-wide cultural programs; funding for intercollegiate athletics in conjunction with the Educational Opportunities Program (EOP); and healthy food choices and the funding of our farm and college gardens, among many other programs that make student-life on this campus thrive.

We’ve done it before, here at UC Santa Cruz and on a large scale in our national elections, and we can do it again. We can show up for our community. We can show up for ourselves when we finally have the means to directly enact change in a world so often out of our control. 

If we show up, they have no choice but to listen.

It only takes a few clicks.

Students can view election information on the Dean of Students website here, read about previous elections below, and stay tuned for more stories about this year’s elections by checking City on a Hill Press.

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