Can PAWS solve voter apathy?
As Matthew Eldstrom sees it, well-financed colleges prepare students for careers, incentivizing industry to inject funds back into the college. A good example of this is the College of Agriculture, which is a provincial research hub and has direct industrial connections.
That sort of relationship doesn’t exist for the arts.
“Other colleges are more important to business. I asked myself, ”˜Who can arts and science become valuable to, and for what?’ ” explained Eldstrom.
“Well, there’s an election coming up,” he said.
He wants to use PAWS, the pre-existing university social media tool, to mobilize and target the student vote.
“If we could show that students are voting in large numbers at the U of S, maybe we could secure funding from various levels of government,” he suggested.
He has already contacted the executive of the U of S students’ union, computer science students and political studies students to put his plan into action.
The idea is to have a voting mechanism available on PAWS to enable strategic voting. The tool would allow students to see previous vote distributions for their riding and have a rough idea of their preferred candidate’s likelihood of winning. They could also communicate their voting preferences to each other and, possibly, trade votes in a practice known as “tactical voting.”
“This is fundamentally an apolitical mechanism,” Eldstrom clarified. “The purpose of the project is to place education back into the conversation of political debate.”
Eldstrom hopes the tool will help students unite to send a message to government by mobilizing the university vote.
Eldstrom wants to teach high school history and German. But with no second year German course options, working towards that goal at the U of S could become impossible.
With the ability to communicate and coordinate voting plans built into PAWS, Eldstrom is simply hoping that students will be able to get candidates to understand the need for the student vote.
It could also address what he thinks is a fundamental reason for voter apathy.
“People view voting like playing the lottery. They’ll only play if they expect that they are going to win,” he said.
This article first appeared in The Sheaf - The University of Saskatchewan Newspaper Since 1912.