A.S. allocates $41,000 to help boost voter turnout

Kristopher A. Fortin

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Carla Benegas, sophomore business and marketing major, has no idea what Associated Students is or what it offers.

‘(A.S.) doesn’t catch my eye or attention,’ Benegas said.

Brian Sanchez, Junior Mechanical Engineering major, lives across the street from campus but says A.S. is not well known to him.

Benegas and Sanchez were two students out of the roughly 34,200 CSUN students that did not vote in the spring ’08 A.S. elections, around 97 percent.

Voter turnout last year hurt A.S. standing on campus, and Mazen Hafez, director of the A.S. election committee, main goal is to find out why low voter turnout continues every semester.

‘Do students not want to vote because they don’t give a shit,’ Hafez asked, ‘Or they don’t vote because they aren’t aware of elections going on or whom the candidates are?’

A.S. Senate gave the election committee $41,000 to advertise events surrounding A.S. elections for the 08-09 year on Sept. 10, up $38,000 from last year’s advertisement funds, to help increase voter turnout.

That brings the total election committee budget to $70,000 for the school year with the addition of the election committee funds for student wages, equipment and program costs that were approved in the 2008-2009 CSUN Associated Students annual budget in June.

A.S. took out $25,000 from A.S. election committee’s advertisement budget for Spring 2009 to use for other organizations and clubs during the fall semester and has promised to have the funds refunded prior to the time needed.

The spring semester goal is for a turnout of 3,500 students.

The increase in funds is a combined effort between the A.S. Senate and the election committee to try to make A.S. presence known on campus through A.S. elections.

Low voter turnout caused the election committee to rethink its tactics, but is unaware of how effective the new methodology may be, Hafez said.

‘Were just testing the theory to see if students just don’t want to vote, don’t care, or there just not aware,’ Hafez said.

Leanne Vincent, A.S. election committee advisor, said the committee was proactive in getting more money for advertisement this year because of the U.S. presidential general elections in the fall.

‘If you believe you can change things in a national election,’ Vincent said, ‘than you can make a bigger reaction at CSUN.’

A.S.’s status as an accurate representative of the CSUN student body has come into question because of the low voter-turnout.

A.S. Vice President Nicole Umali said that when CSUN decided to implement a Campus Quality Fee to students, an outside consulting firm was hired to survey student opinion about the fee.

Umali said that she was concerned about why A.S. wasn’t involved in the survey if A.S. is supposed to be representative of the students.

Vincent said that the election committee budget stays fairly consistent from year-to-year, like this year, ‘unless you do something unusual.’

‘Now that we have more money we have more options,’ Hafez said.

All the funds not used by the election committee will be put back into the A.S. budget, Hafez said.

Umali said that she doesn’t know for sure how next year’s election committee budget would shape up, whether or not the increase of advertisement funds work in bringing out more students to vote. She added that the previous budget year is usually similar to following budget years.

Hafez said in an interview that if the student turnout were not over 3,500 he would resign and pay back the advertisement money used for the spring semester.

If the voter turnout exceeds it’s goal, Hafez said, ‘Hopefully it validates A.S. as a viable and an adequate representation of the students.’

A.S. candidates could have begun campaigning Monday. A.S. debates are set to take place in October.