DESPITE ITS increased information dissemination efforts, the Ateneo Commission on Elections (Comelec) declared a failure of elections for the 2013 Freshmen and Special Elections held last August 5 to 8.
Several candidates from the School of Humanities (SOH), the John Gokongwei School of Management (JGSOM) and the School of Social Sciences (SOSS) failed to reach the required number of votes.
Only the School of Science and Engineering (SOSE) met the quota for all available positions.
The result is a total of 12 Sanggunian positions in the top 44 that will be left unoccupied for the rest of this school year.
According to Comelec Chief Commissioner Julianne Fajardo, the failure of elections for SOH, JGSOM and SOSS could not have been avoided even if Comelec “tried harder.”
“We (Comelec) did a lot of things so that this won’t happen, but I guess this can’t be resolved through our own efforts alone,” Fajardo said.
“The Ateneo community knew what was going on but they choose not to participate. That is beyond our control,” he added.
This is the second straight failure of elections declared by the Comelec. SOH, SOSS and SOSE candidates failed to meet the quota of votes in the general elections held last February.
Increased awareness efforts
This year, Comelec increased its efforts to inform the student body of the elections.
Aside from the usual tarpaulins posted around campus, Comelec utilized the public announcement system of the Loyola Schools (LS) to remind students to vote.
Comelec also tapped the Introduction to Ateneo Culture and Traditions coordinators to help broaden its reach within the student body.
A daily countdown for the elections was posted via Comelec’s official Facebook page. The Miting de Avance for the Sanggunian School Board and Central Board were streamed online as well.
Comelec’s information dissemination efforts were also aided by several LS units.
In particular, the Sanggunian and The Ateneo Assembly released infographics pertaining to campus politics and the elections.
During election week, representatives from theater organization Entablado also encouraged students to vote by conducting walking promotions in the Gonzaga Hall cafeteria and along the Science Education Complex walkway.
“Moreover, our poll officers and dedicated core team had been very aggressive in convincing passers-by to vote,” Fajardo said.
According to him, Comelec members approached students, asked for their year levels and courses and informed them of whether or not they were entitled to vote.
“In other words, we made sure that Comelec reached the voting population directly,” Fajardo said.
Sanggunian President Dan Remo said he was “very pleased and satisfied” with the performance of Comelec this year.
“They performed their duties well and should therefore be congratulated,” Remo said.
However, two Ateneans said they barely felt any of Comelec’s promotions.
Senior English literature major Angelli Ancheta thinks Comelec was “noisier last year.”
She acknowledged, however, that Comelec made use of social media and even streamed the Miting de Avance online.
“But I’m not sure how many students would actually go out of their way to check [these] out,” Ancheta added.
Meanwhile, for information design senior Normandy Europa, Jr, information dissemination efforts pertaining to the elections were “extremely bad.”
“I think I did [see Comelec’s promotions], but [they were] poorly executed and disseminated [that I did not] stop and actually take a look,” Europa said.
He added that he “never” saw an effort from the candidates to encourage their constituents to vote apart from the campaign materials posted around school.
Comelec Chief Commissioner Fajardo argued, “We all witnessed how there are some people who really chose not to vote despite already being informed how not voting does not automatically mean they abstain from voting [for] the candidates.”
Furthermore, Fajardo commended the efforts of newly-elected SOSE Secretary-Treasurer Toby Tobias for his “active promotion” of the freshmen and special elections.
“[He] painstakingly invited students to vote. He devoted, I think, most of his break times to promote the elections,” Fajardo said.
Tobias said his prime reason for personally promoting the elections this year was the fact that he had already experienced not reaching the quota of votes during elections twice.
According to him, he noticed that some students just needed a more active form of encouragement to vote.
“I guess it would’ve been good for them (the Atenean electorate) to see the candidates pushing, even after the campaign period, to have them at least vote. It would show how much they (candidates) really want to win their desired positions,” Tobias added.
Apathetic student body?
Fajardo said it was really disappointing that some of the student chose not to participate in the elections at all.
“But I do not want to generalize that the whole Ateneo community is apathetic to campus politics,” he said.
“Most of the positions were successful to meet quota and I guess those people who made this possible want campus politics to be alive,” Fajardo added.
Europa said he doesn’t believe such apathy exists, either.
“It’s just that no one is visible enough to catch our attention. It’s hassle to vote for abstain if you can just not vote at all,” he said.
For Tobias, though, students’ apathy toward campus politics is “something that really exists.”
Ancheta agreed. She said that the members of the Sanggunian must reach out to their constituents more actively if they want the Ateneo community to feel the importance of their vote.
“Why would we participate [in the elections] if we can’t even see the need to be represented because we can’t feel any results?” she asked.
Tobias agreed that the Sanggunian this year must show that it has a significant impact on the lives of Atenean students.
“Right there is the challenge I want to face,” he said.
Suggestions for the next general elections
Comelec Chief Commissioner Fajardo recommended that the next Comelec commissioners maintain the systems that have worked well during the freshmen and special elections.
He also advised them to improve on, or totally abandon, the promotions “that did not work for the better.”
“I would also like to encourage them to think of creative ways to reach out to the voting population,” Fajardo said, adding that the range and scale of the 2014 Sanggunian General Elections will be bigger.
With reports from Billy B. Poon and Pauline V. Miranda