This year’s undergraduate student government’s election had a 40.3 percent voter turnout, one of the highest in years, despite cuts in the election board’s budget.
The board’s budget decreased from $37,000 in 2015 to $26,000 in 2016, to accommodate decreasing USAC funds. USAC Election Board Chair Lindsay Allen said the board moved campaign efforts from print advertising to social media in response to the decreasing budget.
Allen added the election board continued to advertise in the Daily Bruin and placed paper advertisements on the sides of the kiosks as they did in the past, but focused on campaigning through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“We made sure our promotions on social media were clear and to the point,” Allen said. “Instead of using one long video to explain the election, we used a series of shorter, more simplistic videos to reinforce the idea of voting.”
Allen said their videos received more than 6,000 views as of Tuesday, compared to about 900 views last year. Owen Weitzel, election board marketing committee director, said he worked to create a cohesive brand that would be recognizable.
“We expected a declining voter turnout on a smaller budget,” Weitzel said. “We couldn’t afford to let people get bored, so we gravitated toward bright advertisements, readable fonts and easily digestible information.”
Jazz Kiang, representative of the Social Justice Referendum and a fourth-year Asian American studies student, said he thinks the high voter turnout can also be attributed to the number of referenda on the ballot. Kiang added he thinks more students voted for referenda than candidates.
Students voted to pass all four referenda on the ballot – The Green Initiative Fund, the Social Justice Referendum, #UCLAwellness Referendum and the Daily Bruin and Bruinwalk.com Referendum. Each referendum needed a simple majority, or more than 50 percent of votes, and a voter turnout of at least 20 percent to pass.
The PLEDGE referendum, a $12.75 per quarter student fee increase that benefited a coalition of seven student organizations, was on the ballot for the 2009 election – the most recent year with a similarly high voter turnout. Kiang added PLEDGE was a bundled referendum that allocated money to a variety of entities, as did the Social Justice Referendum.
Allen said she expects next year’s election board to further increase their social media presence to promote voter education.