Voting in ASCIT Elections should be mandatory: An argument.

Voting. It is every citizen’s right, or in this case every Caltech undergraduate’s right. Every year we as an undergraduate student body elect people to all manner of positions: ASCIT President, IHC Chair, CRC and BOC chairs, and of course, Tech Editor. Or at least some fraction of us do, ranging from a quarter to half of the student body actually voting in ASCIT elections. (You can see the exact numbers on all the past election forms on Donut,

It would seem that, despite many reminders to vote in these elections (at least in Dabney Hovse I have observed people sending multiple messages about voting on the day of the election), people still just don’t care enough to vote. And unlike in the US elections where there are numerous roadblocks to voting (registering, getting to a polling place, etc.), voting in ASCIT elections is relatively simple; one solely needs to have access to an electronic device, log into Donut, find the open surveys, and click a few buttons to rank candidates.

So with voter turnout so low, I would like to propose a solution: mandatory voting. Caltech could join the ranks of such nations as Australia, Argentina, and Belgium in requiring citizens to vote in elections. Increasing voter turnout will increase the efficacy of our democracy. How can an ASCIT President represent the whole of the student body when only about one class’s worth of people vote (for example only 205 people voted in the Spring 2023 election)? The IHC chair is supposed to chair a committee representing all 8 houses, but with such low turnout, for all we know they could be controlled by a group of only 2 or 3 houses.

By forcing the populace to vote, we could also force the populace to be more informed of the issues, the elections, and the candidates. As an added benefit, it would promote personal responsibility in campus issues, eliminating those annoying individuals who prefer to just complain instead of actually doing something. Sure, there may be those who resent being forced to vote and will simply put down a vote of “NO”, but being forced to engage in democracy in this small way (voting) might make others more engaged in other aspects as well (actually caring about ASCIT). ASCIT, the IHC, the BOC, and the CRC are all important student bodies on campus and even the average Caltech undergrad should care about the results of these elections. (For the record, The Tech is also an important student body on campus, and you should also care about us.)

In addition to making voting mandatory, ASCIT could also help lower the barrier to voting. I propose ASCIT make some “voting booths” and set them up on the Olive Walk where people can access Donut and vote. I know having to log into your Donut account on a new device possibly without a password manager might be more of an inconvenience than just voting on your phone, but I still believe the novelty and publicity of this would help encourage people to care about the election. And if people see the constructing of these voting booths as a bad use of ASCIT budget? Well then perhaps they will be more inclined to vote for a new treasurer.

Now onto the real question. How would such a policy be enforced? Some countries with mandatory voting have no real consequences enforced, but even those countries see an increase in turnout over similar countries without mandatory voting. Other possible consequences include banning people from ASCIT events such as formal, charging extra ASCIT dues, or public shaming.

Indeed, we could take this a step further. One of the problems with the attitude of ambivalence towards ASCIT elections is a general lack of competition with many races going uncontested. One way to fix this would be to mandate that every member of the Caltech undergraduate population run for at least one ASCIT election during their four years at Caltech. This would fix the lack of contested elections, force people to know more about ASCIT (for example choosing a position to run for), and likely support Crayola sales with many more people needing to buy crayons to eat as part of their campaigning.

Now is any of this a good argument? Reasonable people may disagree. Nevertheless, the lack of voter turnout and general apathy about ASCIT are problems that need addressing, even if I am not the one to do it (after all I’m just a lowly Tech editor, not some political genius).