It’s that time of year again. Time to sign an election proposal form, advocate for a classmate, and elicit votes from our peers. It’s time to be a part of the democratic process. However, what should be treated as a rare opportunity for those under the age of 18 to gain experience at the polls, learn about “issues” that directly affect them, and talk to those running for ASB why they hope to serve their community, will unfortunately play out how it has for the past four years I’ve been here: as a popularity contest. Or, as what may be even more disconcerting, and frankly another demonstration of how MVHS students can effectively game the educational system, is whether or not those running can say all of the right things, i.e. “I want to make MVHS a better place. I want to raise school spirit.”
The election process starts early. First, those running have to get the word out to their peers. We are often unwillingly added to one Facebook page or another that dons the title “[INSERT NAME HERE] for ASB position.” This use of social media to hopefully create social change is heartening, but very few of the groups sport any sort of mission statement, pledge, or slogan, leaving the reader to question whether or not we’re supposed to vote for someone simply because we know them or know of them. Even fewer actually describe how they’re going to accomplish their goals, underscoring a theme that’s increasingly prevalent at the national level; the question (how?), is becoming more and more of a strategic weapon as it pokes holes in campaign promises.
Another unfortunate reality of the MVHS election season is that there are few opportunities to hear the candidates message. This problem arises out of both self-alienation by the candidate and because, ironically, there don’t seem to be a lot of opportunities for those running for ASB to address the issues in an organized democratic manner, as those on the local, state and national levels do. Yes, those running are allocated 30 second of air time on the announcements a short time before the voting starts, but no one, not even Barack Obama himself, could offer a substantive explanation as to how he would fix the country’s problems in that short amount of time. Even if candidates do manage to say something, studies show that when talking, 50-70% of what a person processes is body language, and another 10-15% is tone. So by those numbers, both the students and the candidates lose out on the opportunity to understand the basic reasons for why someone is running, because we’ll likely be too focused on their mannerisms or appearances.
Don’t get me wrong, I love student government and politics. I know that dances bring in revenue, rallies “raise” “school spirit,” and that ASB allocates real-world responsibility and offers the opportunity to gain leadership experience. But I also feel that if ASB candidates want my vote, they’re going to have to do more than ask for it. They’re going to have to show they care, demonstrate their skills, and fight for a reformed elections process that better serves those running and their peers. I want my representatives not only work to improve the system, but to challenge it by proposing new practical ideas, rather than simply sticking to a preordained agenda. I’m curious to see how this election will play out, and to see who rests on their reputation and who rises to the occasion and actually campaigns.