The last time Student Senate held a referendum for a constitutional amendment, less than 100 students showed up at the polls, said Senate President Ray French said.
Now, with a special referendum vote right around the corner, Senate is trying to make voting easier for the student body by holding an electronic vote for the first time at UW-Eau Claire.
Tuesday, students will be able to vote online to accept or reject a newly-proposed amendment to the Student Body Constitution on whether to change Student Senate election dates and terms of office.
“That’s the idea, to make it more accessible, because not all students can make it to Davies on any given day,” French said.
A campus-wide email will be sent to all students Monday, notifying them about the referendum, French said. Tuesday morning they will receive another, telling them to follow the link to the ballot.
The amendment asks whether students support changing Senate’s general election dates from the first or second week of March to mid-April.
In November, Senate passed a bill 17-4-3 authorizing the referendum to be placed on a special elections ballot, according to an article published in The Spectator.
Authors presented the bill as a way for Eau Claire’s student government to coincide with all other UW-System schools.
A disconnect exists because there is an interim period when Eau Claire’s incoming executives try to work with other campus leaders who are on their way out, according to the article, and this tends to create an unproductive spring semester.
“I really believe this will improve our relations with other UW schools,” he said in the article. “(It’s) bettering Student Senate in the long run.”
French said since the constitution that governs Senate is a student body constitution, any changes made need to be approved by students.
Junior Samantha Abraham, who voted in Davies Center in the past, said there are both positives and negatives to online ballots.
“I think it will make it easier, but it will also make it easier for (students) not to be aware that it’s even going on,” she said, adding that some students don’t check their email very often and might miss the notification. “The majority of students do go into Davies and . they do see (polls). If it’s online that will make it a little more quiet.”
Abraham said after hearing about the online election she will vote, but otherwise she probably wouldn’t have known about it and would have discarded the email.
Voting will take place Tuesday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. If the referendum passes, the changes to the constitution would take effect immediately, meaning this session would be extended five weeks.
Junior Andrea Albers, who has also voted in Davies Center, said she probably won’t vote, because the topic isn’t of interest to her but likes the idea of an online election.
“That’d be easier than going to Davies and voting, so I’d be more likely to do that,” she said.
French said this referendum will be the test to see if they can get a satisfactory response rate, and in the future they will may more online ballots.
“In a way if we got more than 100 students it would be successful. I don’t know if anybody on the whole would call that a successful election,” French said. “It’s just really uncharted territory for us. It will really depend on the outcome that we get as far as the students that respond and student opinion on whether or not this is something that they would want us to keep doing.”