Editor’s Note: Please give a warm welcome to Jake, our newest contributor.
When I took a look at the elections results from the past week, I was struck by some of the write-ins. Students, Brandeis professors, religious figures and totalitarian dictators were tabulated along with the declared candidates for each race. I am the first to admit that some of the ballots cast are amusing; the idea that Hitler, Big Bird, and former Chicago Bears coach Mike Ditka all tied for Associate Justice of the Student Judiciary shows a certain degree of creativity on the part of three individual voters. However, not all of the votes were as innocent or childish. In one race, while a student – let’s call him Joe Bloggs – was elected to another term on the Union, three voters wrote in “Not Joe A. Bloggs,” “Not Joe ever,” and “Too Much Joe,” respectively.
In addition to the fact that this sort of joke would be hurtful to anyone, this brings about questions of purpose and overall value to the campus’ political dialogue: why take the time to come up with a write-in which you might find funny? First, voter turnout is incredibly low. With the exception of the Senator for the Class of 2013 election, which yielded a 47.8 percent turnout of freshmen, all of the elections from the most recent cycle ranked in between 21 and 34 percent. This means that roughly one fourth of the students eligible to vote in each election care enough to log onto the union website and take three minutes out of their day.
Because of this, and because the official voting data is not widely released, the portion of the student body who takes the time to notice the outrageous write-ins is even smaller. Combined with the fact that all votes are anonymous, it seems pointless to make a joke which very few people will read, find amusing, and credit you with a good joke. If nothing else, why not abstain in any election where there is no standout candidate or candidates? In some cases, the Abstain category can win an election over an unopposed candidate. This makes an actual statement about disapproval of the Brandeis candidates and the overall electoral process without the sarcasm of a fake write-in.