The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Kansas State Collegian

The independent student news publication at Kansas State University

Kansas State Collegian

Student body presidential candidates hope to increase voter turnout for 2024-25 cycle

Candidates urge students to use their voice and make change
Voting+for+student+body+presidential+elections+opens+this+Tuesday.+Candidates+discussed+their+hope+to+increase+voter+turnout+at+the+student+body+presidential+debate+Monday.
Avery Johnson
Voting for student body presidential elections opens this Tuesday. Candidates discussed their hope to increase voter turnout at the student body presidential debate Monday.

Voter turnout for student body presidential elections at K-State has a history of being low. This year’s candidates participated in a formal debate Monday and discussed their goals to increase awareness and participation in campus elections. 

Student Governing Association Elections Commissioner Nick Saia said voter turnout is historically low for a combination of reasons. 

“To some extent, yes, it’s true that students don’t know [about elections], and I think that’s the most commonly cited reason,” Saia, senior in civil engineering, said. “But more today than maybe used to be true, I think there’s a pretty strong competition for students’ attention by everyone on campus. … Because everyone believes that their information is very important, what you ultimately have is an information environment where students are totally saturated. It’s really difficult to get any one thing through.”

Student body vice president candidate Jack O’Malley said another reason voter turnout is low is student body presidential elections are less competitive than they used to be.

“Usually there’s one group of candidates that’s in Greek life that’s maybe more well-known, and there’s another group of candidates who maybe aren’t in Greek life and aren’t as well-known,” O’Malley said. “That has led to a lot of not really competitive elections where the candidates didn’t really have to try too hard to win.”

O’Malley said he and his running mate Paige Vulgamore have “always wanted to break the voter turnout [record].”

Vulgamore, student body presidential candidate, said to achieve this goal they made a point to meet with as many students as possible during their campaign.

“We thought a good way to increase those numbers is just reaching areas of campus that aren’t historically reached out to,” Vulgamore, junior in agricultural economics and global food systems leadership, said. 

Bently Taulbert, student body vice president candidate, said at the debate it is important for students to vote in campus elections because “this is a pinnacle year.”

“You have to make big change in order to meet the current demands of society today,” Taulbert, junior in political science, said. “We have to rekindle the flame into the students to actually care more.”

Vulgamore said increasing awareness about the role of SGA would increase students’ desire to vote. 

“So many meetings we’ve had with students, one of the first questions I ask before we talk about our goals and initiatives is, ‘Do you know what SGA is, and do you know what we can do for you as student body president and vice president?’ And typically the answer is no,” Vulgamore said. “If you want to be invested in this election and care about it at all, you need to kind of have an idea of what the student body president does.”

Saia said the role of SGA is sometimes misunderstood by students.

“Creating some benefit for students is not easy,” Saia said. “We talk all the time about how SGA’s really great because we have control over this or that and can make improvements in such and such ways. It’s not always straightforward to actually turn the responsibility that we have into the material change that you would like to see.” 

Saia said students voting in campus elections helps SGA facilitate change. 

“Those material changes definitely exist, and electing people who have your interest in mind, and especially electing people who sort of have the stamina to achieve goals can absolutely deliver a serious impact to the student experience,” Saia said. 

Support from the university would also help increase voter turnout, Vulgamore said.

“K-State does seem to be pretty hands-off sometimes when it comes to elections,” Vulgamore said. “You know, they can’t get involved with a specific candidate but I think they could do a better job of advertising for the students, just of the elections in general.”

Voting for the student body presidential election will open 8 a.m. Tuesday and close 6 p.m. Wednesday. Students can vote by visiting their Canvas page while voting is open. 

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About the Contributors
Meredith McCalmon, news editor
News editor for 2023-24. Previously writer for 2022-23.
Avery Johnson, multimedia editor
Multimedia editor for 2023-24. Previously photographer for spring 2023.
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