Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

Sign up for our twice-weekly newsletter!

SGA voter turnout climbs after decade-long decline

Daniel Heuer | Staff Photographer
Members and friends of the Student Government Association gather in the University Student Center Amphitheater to await election results.

Voter turnout in Student Government Association elections rose this year after plunging to a decade-low in 2023.

A total of 3,153 students — about 12.3 percent of eligible voters — cast votes in the SGA election last week, compared to 2,190 or 8.5 percent of eligible voters in last year’s election, according to the Joint Elections Commission’s certified results. Members of the JEC said they got catered Chick-fil-A for the presidential and vice presidential debate and handed out doughnuts in Kogan Plaza to incentivize students to learn about the candidates and vote.

JEC Deputy Election Commissioner Michael Ubis said the JEC requested an election budget of $2,954 from the SGA this year to spend on catered food and “I Voted” stickers in hopes of increasing voter participation in the election. Ubis said last year’s election budget of $2,050 covered just the ranked-choice voting software the JEC uses to conduct the election. 

“We worked a lot more on voter outreach,” Ubis said. “We had more tabling events during the actual election season, we had more candidates that certainly drove up turnout, but we also had food at almost all of our events which significantly drove up attendance at the debate and at our two tabling events.”

Ubis said to increase voter turnout, candidates in competitive races — like for the Columbian College of Arts & Sciences undergraduate senator seats, where 13 candidates ran for eight open spots — created large campaign teams of 20 to 30 members to help advertise their platforms.

He added that the JEC asked candidates to put QR codes on the posters they hung around campus for students to scan and access voting resources on GW Engage.

“It’s always been on Engage but there’s a lot of people who don’t use Engage until they have to, like when registering for an event or voting in the election, so there was more outreach on that side,” Ubis said.

Fatima Konte, the chief commissioner of the JEC, said candidates’ platforms included “major issues” that students discuss on campus, like sexism within the SGA, concerns about dining and representation for marginalized communities at GW, which led more students to vote. Konte said the JEC helped to increase voter turnout with free food, but high voting numbers were ultimately a result of the candidates’ platforms.

“A lot of it was the candidates, the candidates were outside campaigning from the beginning of the voting period to the end of it, and I definitely think that was a major driving force in getting the votes up so high,” Konte said.

SGA president-elect Ethan Fitzgerald said he encouraged students to vote by advertising that elections are a chance for students to choose who they feel can best advocate for them. Fitzgerald secured the presidency by 16 votes, defeating presidential candidate Lauren K. Harris in the fourth and final round of voting, according to the JEC’s unverified results. Fitzgerald said he talked with student organization leaders during the campaign period about a “broad set of issues” to garner support from students.

“I also sat down with like 20 org leaders, which I thought was really important, just for me in learning about the different challenges they’re facing, but also seeing where SGA could potentially provide support or where they needed help,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said he emphasized being “out there in the community” during the campaigning period by tabling in Kogan Plaza on election days and conversing with members of student organizations about how the SGA can support them in the upcoming year.

“We were in Kogan for like 12 hours on each election day because we wanted to encourage turnout,” Fitzgerald said. “I told people, regardless of who you’re voting for, make sure to vote because it’s important.”

More to Discover
Donate to The GW Hatchet