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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 78.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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The case against voting in UW student elections

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I just passed a "No New Seg Fees" volunteer at Library Mall. I told her I'd already voted against raising seg fees to pay for a renovation of the Natatorium. She was happy to hear it. But since the referendum requires 15% turnout to be ratified, isn't not voting the same as voting against, I asked her.

"No," she responded. If they get 15% turnout then we need to vote against it. And she thought it would look better if students defiantly said no. It's good that she's idealistic, but after thinking about it more, I realize that it's not only possible that abstention is the way to go  it's practically assured.

Think about it this way. Let's say the Nat Up campaign mobilizes 14.99 percent of the student population to vote YES. If nobody else votes, the referendum is moot and no seg fee hike. If, however, one anti-seg fee person votes NO, raising the turnout to 15 percent, the outcome becomes valid, and the project is passed.

A more realistic scenario is that Nat Up mobilizes eight percent of the student population to vote and the No New Seg Fees campaign mobilizes seven percent, making the election "legitimate" and giving Nat Up a slim majority.

My plan is not unrealistic. Turnout for ASM elections is usually below ten percent. Why not force Nat Up to turn out over ten percent of the student population in their favor? If you don't inspire people to go to the polls in opposition, it would be very plausible that they wouldn't get the necessary turnout. By turning out opposition, you're allowing Nat Up to win with only eight percent of the student vote.

Democracy through inaction. That's the way to be.

The problem is that the No New Seg Fees campaign has already been waged. That means that many opponents have already voted NO, meaning that if you oppose the plan and you think there will be over 15 percent turnout...go ahead and vote no.

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