USG polls close as voter turnout plummets to lowest number in 6 years

Patrick Koster, News Editor

This year’s United Students Government elections saw the lowest voter turnout in five years, with a total of 555 undergraduate student votes.

That is, of course, excluding 2012’s exclusively online elections (369 votes).

Ballots this year didn’t include a referendum (such as whether to keep the $75 student activity fee mandatory or not), which may explain the low number of students who voted.

Votes were nearly cut in half compared to last year’s elections (1,139), which also included a referendum to allow students to donate to New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG). The 555 votes this year make up only about six percent of the undergraduate student population.

Terron Grant was elected USG President with a total of 402 votes. Latia Ebanks was elected USG Treasurer with 342 votes, and Iddris Abass was elected USG Executive Vice President with 438 votes, the highest number of votes for any candidate in this year’s elections.

“It’s a great feeling,” Grant said about being elected. “It’s something I’ve been wanting for a very, very long time.

“I’d just like to say thank you to the students who voted and showed that they support me and showed that they agreed with the criteria that I was running on.”

Although not in office yet, Grant, Abass and Ebanks have already begun to work on their agendas. Abass said the group has held group chats and meetings in the past. He said they are “already a team.”

“It’s actually funny because I thought I would wait until Monday to start working on it,” Grant said Saturday. “But as soon as I saw the results, so like Thursday and yesterday, I was already starting to work on it.”

They want to start with revamping and improving a USG-funded scholarship. Grant said he wants to improve streaming at BSCTV to aid in his efforts as well. Improvements to Bengal Bucks, food and housing are also on their list.

“We have this thing where Terron really wants to push forward with this USG scholarship and I’m also finding a way to make our Bengal Bucks outreach more expansive,” Abass said.

Abass said Grant spoke to him about a year ago with the idea of running together. Before winter break, Grant asked Abass if he would like to run in the same party.

“It’s something that has been brewing for a long time, so it’s like when you have that feeling that you know you can work with someone good and it’s going to be great,” Abass said. “When it comes to Latia, she has the experience. She’s been on the budget committee for two years, so you know she has that experience, she has that kind of exposure [and] she’s personable.”

Abass said he wants to raise awareness of USG, get more students involved and change student impressions of USG.

“For the population that Buff State has, it just shows how much disinterest that the student body has, and that’s something that needs to change,” Abass said. “We’re here for them. We’re here to make changes, we’re here to make life in Buff State better for them. I think we just have to find a way to really get the student body involved and make a push and change.”

Grant can understand why students may have chosen not to vote.

“People are constantly being lied to by politicians,” Grant said. “So, to a certain extent, I can’t blame them for not voting, however, I want to be able to prove myself to them by standing behind what I said I was going to do.

“One thing I want to do is stick to my criteria because that’s what I was voted in on and if I start going to other things, then it’s just going to be too much. So I’m going to stick to my criteria.”

Wes Thomas, project coordinator for SUNY Buffalo State’s NYPIRG chapter, said NYPIRG didn’t play a role in getting students to the polls for USG elections this year.

“We do help out on occasion because we actually have a referendum every two years,” Thomas said. “So in the past, we have helped out, but usually only once we have a referendum because that’s what votes us to keep us on campus. So we usually help out with the [students to] get out and vote for that, but during off years that’s more of USG’s help.”

Abass said a lack of promotion for the elections may have resulted in the low voter turnout.

“Last year, because we had a referendum, we had a little bit more involvement from orgs and stuff like that,” Abass said. “So it kind of pushed a lot of people to come out and vote.

“To the students that voted, I would say it’s great that they came out and voted, and we really appreciate the involvement because we’re here for them and if they really want to get their voice heard, they certainly did that.”

Thomas said NYPIRG encourages any form of voting, especially in the presidential primaries.

“We do encourage participating in any form of elections,” Thomas said. “We absolutely believe in participating in any form of elections because you really don’t have a right to complain if you don’t go out and vote and have a say in what’s going on.”

Grant is also excited to begin working with other elected officials.

“I love my whole eBoard,” Grant said. “From Best Choice to all of the AVPs, I was happy with the whole election. I have a very strong team and I’m ready to work with them.

Grant feels like he and his newly elected team can accomplish a lot.

“USG is for the people and it’s about time we got the people feeling like it’s really here for them,” Abass said. “We’re going to do everything in our power and our capacity to make changes throughout Buffalo State.”

Thomas mentioned that NYPIRG is close to helping freeze SUNY tuition. Two weeks ago, both the Senate and State Assembly proposed a one-house budget that included a two-year tuition freeze and an increase in TAP and community college aid.

He said the SUNY Board of Trustees and SUNY Executives, who were previously in favor of SUNY 2020, agreed with the budget. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he would support a tuition freeze as long as cost efficiency changes to SUNY and CUNY schools were made beforehand as well.

Follow The Record for more on the possible tuition freeze.

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