Voters incentivized with free food, swag

Team Unite tables on Library Plaza yesterday afternoon.–Chris Ayers Colby Patterson
Team Unite tables on Library Plaza yesterday afternoon. Photo by Chris Ayers.

Team Unite tables on Library Plaza yesterday afternoon. Photo by Chris Ayers.

Marina Johnson, a freshman in computer science, said she closed her eyes and chose a candidate for the ASUU elections.

According to a survey conducted by The Daily Utah Chronicle, 56 percent of students asked have already voted. Many more intend to vote by 10 p.m. tonight, when polls officially close.

This percentage is greater than in the primary elections two weeks ago, where voter turnout suffered.

In hopes of increasing turnout for the final cycle of elections, ASUU began offering students incentives to vote. Students who voted in person or showed proof of online voting received an “I voted!” pin from ASUU representatives at the Marriott Library’s east entrance. Students could then present the pin for a ceramic mug and free food at the ASUU tent on the plaza.

“Honestly, I did it for the mug,” said Colby Makahilahila, a sophomore in business.

Sam Nielson, marketing director for the Vision Party, worries about students who vote like Makahilahila. He called the incentives “a double-edged sword” because the votes they encourage may be uninformed.

“People walk out of the library, see they can get free food, and make a split-second decision on which party to vote for,” Nielson said. At that point, he says the party can only hope students know the Vision Party’s message.

Tuscan Thompson of Team Unite does not see it that way. He said students rarely know they can get free food until a party member approaches them and tells them so. This gives the parties a chance to share their platforms with students, and it encourages students who would not vote otherwise.
Despite the incentives, many students refuse to vote in ASUU elections.

“No one’s shown a real difference between the two parties,” said West Singleton, a freshman in linguistics.

Singleton also said he is not convinced student governments have the power to change anything.

Michael Zhao, a freshman in mathematics, admits he is “just too lazy” to vote.

Both Team Unite and the Vision Party hope to change students’ minds. In addition to tabling and canvassing, both parties are reaching out to students through social media. Their respective Facebook pages each have over 1,000 “likes,” and the Vision Party’s Instagram account has twice as many followers as ASUU’s.

“We want to connect to as many voters as possible,” said Treyden Johnson, campaign manager for the Vision Party. “Social media is a force that’s already in motion, and it’s entirely devoted to connecting people.”

Johnson encouraged students to vote, regardless of incentives or party platforms.

“Just vote,” he said. “Even if it’s not for us. Just vote.”

a.oligschlaeger@chronicle.utah.edu