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Less than one in ten students voted in Union by-elections

There was a lack of diversity in the candidates, with all eight of them being white, and from the British Isles.

IT has been almost a fortnight since Chloe Whyte was elected Students’ Union President, and Brig can reveal that only 781 students voted in the 2019 Stirling Studens’ Union by-elections.

Although the vote count was 118 votes higher than last year, it is still low compared to the elections in March, when around 2,500 students voted for the sabbatical and part-time officer positions.

There are around 12,000 students eligible to vote in the Students’ Union elections, meaning that less than ten per cent of the electorate turned out to vote.

Although it is true that turnout is typically lower for by-elections, given that the role of Union President was up for grabs, many expected it to be a lot higher than what it was.

Chloe was elected with 399 votes, which would only have been enough for third place in the March elections.

Alongside Chloe, Jamie McDiarmid won non-traditional students officer and four NUS delegates were also elected.

First-year students were revealed as the most engaged year group, while Brig Newspaper registered the highest turnout out of all the clubs, societies and sports teams, with 40 members casting a ballot.

As always, clubs and societies whose members were running in the elections turned out in higher than average numbers.

Both Union President candidates, Ryan Peteranna and Chloe Whyte, are members of the Disabled Students Association (DSAS), who were one of the clubs with higher turnouts.

Similarly to previous years, all the candidates were white and from the British Isles, which is not representative of the Stirling student population as a whole, given that the university boasts hosting students from more than 120 nations.

No members of the Islamic society or Chinese and Scholars association voted in this year’s election, alongside only one member of the African Carribean society, showing that student engagement from ethnic minorities is significantly lower than average.

Sports teams failed to turn out in high percentages, with women’s lacrosse being the only sports club to register more than 20 votes, possibly due to the fact that none of the positions that were filled particularly involve sport.

New officers have been elected, but it is clear that there is still a lot to be done to improve student engagement with the Students’ Union at Stirling.

Rosamund Vickers, the Union’s democracy and representation co-ordinator, said that the Union were happy with the increase in turnout but admitted that they ‘are always looking for ways to increase student engagement’.

She said: “It is often harder to maintain good turnout at by-elections as the Union has limited resources it can provide, so we are always looking for new and innovative ways to try increase voter turnout.

“Going forward into the March Election, we will be furthering campaign plans to try increase engagement from all students, particularly groups who may be less represented in turnout numbers.

“This is also something we aim to reach out to students about and ask what they would like to see from the Union in relation to elections and the officer team and how we can continue to be representative of all students.”

Feature image credit: Stirling Students’ Union

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