As campaigning begins, pay attention to candidates, don't forget to vote

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With the close of filing Tuesday, dozens of candidates officially declared their respective candidacies for the plethora of open offices, including Student Government and Texas Student Media positions. Most important for us, four teams declared for student body president and vice president, and two candidates were certified last Friday to run for editor-in-chief of the Texan. In addition, candidates were certified for TSM board seats, the Graduate Student Assembly, University Unions and the Co-op Board. Candidates officially began campaigning Wednesday. 

As a recent firing line to this publication by an alumnus of the University noted, students have not always had a right to self-determination for many of their affairs. Well into the 1980s, the Students’ Association was nonexistent and the students themselves had no say over the time, place and manner of all too many items of concern for students. 

Some 30 years later, the integrity of students’ already miniscule exercise in democracy is threatened again. The belligerent is not malevolent regents or administration officials, but an apathetic student body. In recent years, turnout has hovered around a disappointing 15 percent, according to data from the Dean of Students’ office. With turnout so egregiously low, and so many on the 40 Acres utterly disconnected, the legitimacy of the ostensibly elected representatives is called into question.   

Texas is dead last in political participation in the country, and we think the disengagement obviously starts early. For this university and this state, that needs to change. 

Certainly, this year — like many years before it — features no shortage of inspirational, qualified or otherwise positive candidates. Multiple contenders from diverse cross-sections of the University have come forward in an attempt to better this school for all who attend and otherwise interact with it. But the best way for Student Government, as well as publications such as the Texan, to work with the community is to be buttressed by robust civic engagement and turnout. 

Thankfully, voting is easy. This year, as before, votes can be cast online over the course of two days. This means you can participate in the decision-making at any time of day, in any place with an internet connection or cell service. You also don’t have to show your driver’s license! 

Over the next few weeks, many organizations, such as this board, will offer our thoughts on the elections for president and vice president as well as other positions. The most important decision, though, is not who one selects; rather, it is the decision to vote in the first place. We hope you make it. Voting begins March 4 and ends March 5. You can vote at utexasvote.org.