Why students should vote in BYUSA elections

Cragun Liston
BYU Student Lydia Vergara explores the BYUSA voting page. Students can vote on this website Feb. 28 and March 1 for the 2018-2019 BYUSA presidential elections. (Cragun Liston)

Editor’s note: the student voting website will only be live during voting on Feb. 28 and March 1. 

BYUSA Presidential Elections are in full swing, with preliminary voting on Wednesday Feb. 28 and final voting on Thursday, March 1.

According to the current elections coordinator, executive vice president and involvement vice president, it is important for students to vote because the presidency will affect students more than they realize.

“The BYUSA president and executive vice president manage the largest student organization on campus, which runs hundreds of events that impact clubs, individual student groups — whether that’s colleges or nonacademics — and influence the individual student,” Cragun Liston, BYUSA elections student coordinator said. “They can’t affect BYU policy, but the type of leadership they have in office does affect thousands of students and the experience they have at BYU.”

Students can vote online from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28 for one of the three candidate pairs: Simeon and Dilan, Jayne and Kendra, or Hanna and James. The top two pairs will then move on to the final day of voting.

Students who voted on the preliminary day will not need to revote, as their preliminary vote will stand as their final vote. If, however, students preliminary vote was for the candidate pair that did not move on, students are welcome to recast their final vote for a remaining pair on Thursday, March 1 from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Students who missed voting on Wednesday are also welcome to cast their first vote on Thursday during final voting.

Vice President of Involvement Joseph Wise said students may choose not to vote because they don’t know the candidates.

“That’s a poor excuse,” he said. “Students should educate themselves.”

The best way to get informed about which candidates to vote for is through their websites, social media pages, and the Q&A sessions on campus. Each candidate pair has prepared separate platforms for students to learn about: Simeon and Dilan —”Bridging One University“; Hanna and James — “What’s Your ‘Y’?“; and Jayne and Kendra — “BYUNITE.” Candidates will be at booths at the WSC on voting day for students to stop by and get to know them, added Strobel.

The voting website will have a brief description of each candidate pair’s platform the week of voting. Wise said at the very least students should skim the platforms before voting.

Liston said it’s important to know what you are voting for.

“Look into programs they’re running on,” Liston said. “That’s what make elections matter.”

When selecting a candidate, students can look for platforms and action plans that resonate with them, Strobel said. She said all of the current candidates have great campaigns, so it comes down to the causes that students want to advocate.

“Students have a hard time delineating the platforms and differentiating what each campaign has to offer,” Liston said.

He encourages students to not only read candidate websites, but also to look into the action plans outlined. Ideas can sound great, but clear visions with implementation plans are important.

“You’ll find a difference in the action plans. I am confident that’s true this year,” Liston said.

Liston pointed out that some presidencies from past elections have fulfilled what they said and some haven’t.  He said he believes the candidates who have a defined vision and plan are better able to hit the ground running when they are elected. Liston has been involved with BYUSA Elections since 2012, and has seen the process firsthand as the elections coordinator the last few years.

Liston said he is impressed with the campaigns this year and is excited to see how the student body responds. Liston commented on why students don’t vote and said students are not concerned with the outcome because they feel it won’t affect them. He said students underestimate the impact BYUSA has on their lives.

BYUSA puts on over 100 events each year, not including clubs’ nights and all the activities BYUSA oversees in that aspect. BYUSA also runs the student advisory council. Those students go back to their colleges to create changes based on that council.

“The influence is extensive even if it’s not direct and doesn’t have the BYUSA logo attached,” Liston said.

Students choose not to vote because they don’t always see their connection to BYUSA, according to Strobel. She said students don’t realize BYUSA has connections to every organization on campus, especially because of the Campus Connections council she and Executive President Dillon Ostlund implemented this past year. The Campus Connections Council is composed of representatives from major organizations across campus, and helps the groups support each other and use the reach and resources of BYUSA.

BYUSA executive president and vice president are given power with budgeting. They decide what is emphasized throughout the year for campus and what events are funded, according to Wise.

Wise said the BYUSA Executive Team represents BYU to other colleges and community members. He said BYUSA is a very friendly organization that wants to help as many people as possible get involved wherever they best fit on campus. He encourages students with any questions to stop by the BYUSA office in the WSC to get a tour or have their questions answered. He said BYUSA can help students get involved that same day.

Students may argue that one vote does not matter, but elections have been decided by a forty-vote margin in the past, according to Liston. The winner is also completely student decided, with no administrative interference. Because of this, every vote has equal weight, Strobel said.

Current Executive Vice President Katelyn Strobel talked about how she and Ostlund were the first candidates to initiate videos on their social media campaigns. She said she felt the videos opened her and Ostlund to the students and amplified the crowd they were able to interact with.

“We had 218,000 social media impressions across social platforms during our campaign. We never would have had the resources or the bandwidth to do but social media allowed us to connect with (students),” Strobel said.

BYU currently has the highest voting turnout of any organization in Utah, according to both Stobel and Liston. However, Liston said only 20 percent of students vote on average.

“I really hope to see whoever wins catch the BYUSA vision, run with it and help the campus — as the BYUSA vision states — become a zion-like community, ensuring that there really are no spiritually, physically or intellectually poor among us,” Liston said. “I hope that vision shines through all the activities BYUSA carries out.”

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