Monday, February 27, 2012

Another perspective on voter apathy

Math challenge: Without counting, how many paper hearts can be made
using the campaign materials during the election? 

Aside from the university fair that students zealously await come February, there also is the upcoming election of a new set of student leaders for the university. February could be the love month, but in my university, it's also the campaign period. Around this time, people don't only see red but also see other colors.

Blue, red, and yellow papers litter the campus. An aerial view of Palma Hall for example, would probably provide an interesting collage of colors. Some people start to smile more even if for the rest of the semester s/he didn't pay as much attention as glancing your direction. Sure, election is in the air!

I have so much respect for those people who had enough confidence to come forward and make themselves subject to criticisms and interrogations. It sure isn't easy to go out there and shake hands with people they barely know. They have to make use of the few seconds that they're given in order to establish a connection with the voter. Current strategies include;

1. Room-to-room campaigns/dorm tours
Here, the candidates along with their support group go to a classroom and speak to a population of about 20 to 30 students.

2. Distribution of campaign materials
This may come in the form of pamphlets, flyers, stickers, etc. distributed to students or huge posters and tarpaulins plastered around the campus.

3. Putting up of booths in every college
This is for anyone who wishes to ask some more about the party's GPOA. I think this also serves as a way for them to make themselves more accessible and visible to the voting population.

4. Handshaking
Candidates typically roam around the campus and shake hands with students.

5. New media campaigns
Supporters and/or candidates themselves create Facebook pages and invite others to like their page. Here, they post any information relevant to their campaign. Nice pictures, testimonials, and their projects are described here in detail. Videos that orient the voter what a specific party/candidate stands for also abound.

Aside from these, there are organizations that create a platform for the parties to engage in a healthy debate on a wide range of issues encompassing national politics, current events, and university-related concerns.

I recently got acquainted into another campaign strategy - the bedroom-to-bedroom campaign.

The idea is entertaining to some extent that with the more personal way of relating to the potential voter. But I beg to call it foul. The five campaign strategies they have along with several other talks organized by a third party is enough to say that they are in the air.

I understand the fact that they are driven by the need to make themselves more visible. I would go as far as saying that they believe that they have the best plan hence they have to be heard. I dare not question their sincerity, motives... Granted that they are all there for they believe that they can contribute to the improvement of the students, the university, the nation. I have but one sentiment, this tendency to unscrupulously expose themselves.

The bedroom-to-bedroom campaign, I find insulting as I consider the bedroom a private space where I relax, eat, and simply talk to my roommates. In the morning, we find flyers tacked on our door, that I don't have a problem. But to come to our room in the evening is too much.

The voter is weary. Yes, candidates lose their voice campaigning and the support group spend a considerable amount of time doing the best they can to be of help to the candidates. But it has to be acknowledged that the voter is exposed to a multitude of messages by different parties and individuals everyday. The parties need to be careful in their campaign as they're walking a very thin line.

I have heard so many complaints about low voter turnout during the election day. The voters are usually blamed for being apathetic. BUT, is this really the only reason? I admit that some students I know don't vote because of the lack of time, disinterest to participate, etc. This said, I don't think that the student didn't vote just because of that. It sure is a stock answer to the question "why didn't you exercise your right to vote", even so, parties shouldn't be content to simplify the low voter turnout by blaming the voter's attitude.

A self-check is timely. Did they engage the voter enough? Are their strategies really effective in making their message known? Is overexposure by saturating the environment with too many posters, flyers, and what-not a surefire way to introduce themselves to the voter?

Prospero Pichay didn't win a seat in the senate even if he consistently bombarded the voter with "Pangarap kong tuparin ang mga pangarap ninyo" (it is my dream to make your dreams come true). It helped for recall but it didn't translate to action.

The parties need to recognize that their work and purpose doesn't end in the announcement of winners. They need to be perceptive so as to answer the question what would motivate the preoccupied and weary voter to go out there and vote. A low turnout is not only a case of an apathetic voter, it might also be a case of ineffective, insensitive, and unimaginative campaign strategy.