On Oct. 4 in the atrium of the Student Union, the UCF Student Government Association announced the winners of the 50th senate elections, along with a staggeringly small vote count.
The 3,477 votes cast in the 2017 fall senate elections was the second lowest voter turnout for senate elections in six years, according to voting records. In March 2017, the SGA presidential race had 11,346 votes cast.
Those numbers mirror what turnout was like from 2011 to 2017 between the presidential and senate elections. From 2011 to 2017, SGA presidential elections have had an average of 3,000 more votes than SGA senate elections.
In that six-year time frame, senate elections averaged 4,384 votes. The highest amount of votes received in any year was 5,659 in 2012. The lowest total vote count was in 2014 with 2,948, according to voting records.
For the presidential races, the rough average of total votes is 7,899. The highest vote count was in 2012 with about 12,000 votes cast, according to voting records. The only year the vote count for a presidential race ever dipped below 6,000 was in 2016, when 3,670 votes were cast, according to voting records.
While no one reason has been pinned down for the disparity in voting, Sen. Annalise Bockin, a junior hospitality major, believes a major reason is that students don’t know enough about the senate.
“I feel like people just don’t know about senate,” Bockin said. “When I campaign I’ll mention, ‘Do you know you pick your student representative for your college?’ and that usually gets them to stop and be like, ‘No. No I didn’t know that.’”
One of those students who didn’t know enough about the senate was freshman legal studies major Frederick Sharp. Sharp knew there were senate elections going on this semester, but didn’t feel he was informed enough to vote for the senators.
“The reason I didn’t vote this year is because I didn’t know any of the candidates,” Sharp said. “What they stood for or anything.”
UCF SGA's Assistant Supervisor of Elections Jamal Mays said it is the Election Committee's job to inform voters and make them more knowledgeable of candidates platforms. One way the commission is trying to improve awareness is by creating a bigger presence on social media and meeting with registered student organizations starting this upcoming presidential election.
"We've done the social media," Mays said. "We're probably going to go through with an RSO campaign of some sort. And that's simply just going to RSOs and telling them briefly what goes on with voting; why the presidential elections are important."
Uninformed voters are not uncommon when it comes to senate, according to Bockin. The senator said she has heard misinformation from students about what SGA and the senate does. One initiative the senate is trying to take is to inform students -- freshmen especially -- what the senate does.
Campaigning is another area that Bockin thinks plays a role in the lack of voter turnout. She said the amount of signs posted all over campus for presidential elections raises more awareness than the few signs senators post.
Only one year, in 2016, did the senate receive more votes than the presidential race. That year, the senate saw 5,049 votes cast in the fall compared with the 3,670 cast in spring for a presidential race that received national media attention when candidate Jacob Millich was removed from the race for illegal campaign procedures.
Another possible factor playing into the difference in turnout besides students not knowing what senate does is the recognition of the office of president. Tariq Sakkarie, a freshman health sciences major, said he believes that students view the SGA president as much more important than the senate.
“[Students] look at the hierarchy and people look at presidency as more important,” Sakkarie said. “And so I would think that their involvement in the election of one of the top most positions would be more important than just a senate vote would be.”