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Student Elections 2023: Nudging Opens

The St Andrews Students’ Association is encouraging students to ‘nudge’ peers to run in the upcoming student Elections.

Elections take place annually in semester 2 and determine the next academic year’s Sabbatical Officers, Student Trustees, School Presidents, and Language Convenors. While the actual Elections themselves are not until March 15, the process of determining candidates has already begun.

Using the General Elections Nudge and Interest Tool on the Students’ Association website, students can anonymously prompt other students to run for office, or express their own interest in doing so. Eligible students who have been nudged will receive an email in their inbox with election information, as well as the role they have been nudged for and how to stand for it. Nominations open 22 February and remain open until 7 March.

From there, a Presidential Debate is held on 13 March, while voting is open from 14 March at midnight to 15 March at 6pm. The results are to be announced later that night.

A statistical summary of votes cast in last year’s General Election shows that election turnout was 26.73% with 3,139 unique voters taking part. These figures were included in a report authored by the Staff Elections Lead and the Elections Intern, which also stated that both of these numbers were down from 2021 where they stood at 31.55% and 3,623 respectively.

The report considers multiple factors for this decline including: Split schedule of Elections, fewer sabbatical officer candidates, less visible campaigning and lower number of positions. It also posits that the restructuring of the Elections Administration was one of the “larger factors” affecting the decrease in turnout. While Elections used to be run by committees of student volunteers, Students’ Association staff members are now responsible for Elections, but must split this responsibility with their other duties.

The report said, “While staff-led Elections reduce the perception of bias, staff-led elections appear to reach fewer student voters compared to the student volunteer structure. Engagement, even among already-elected councillors, was difficult to solicit this year for both Staff and Sabbatical Officers alike. The staff elections team may also miss certain pockets or demographics of students based on the differences in outreach methods. Many methods of campaigning (such as hosting in-person voting booths) require more volunteers than the number of current staff involved in elections”.

Future actions proposed by the report suggest expanding the number of people working on Elections and increasing the budget, with budgets for interns/staffing, candidate/campaign reimbursements, and promotion/events/administration all being separate. Encouraging candidates to do more in-person and on the ground campaigning was also brought up, as well as looking at strategies which could increase student outreach and awareness. For example, hiring students with large social media following to spread the word about elections or having high-profile figures within the University make public statements which would support and encourage voting.

Students who are interested in engaging further with the elections process this semester can do so by keeping up to date with elections news via the Students’ Association’s Facebook page and website. And while student volunteers no longer run the elections process itself, they can still help get the word out about voting and help individual candidates campaign if they meet the eligibility requirements.

Image: University of St Andrews

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