A resolution urging the city of Ann Arbor to adopt nonpartisan November elections was passed by the Central Student Government Tuesday night during its first meeting of the year.
According to the resolution, August primary elections make it hard for students to vote as they are usually not on campus during the summer months. This has resulted in a remarkably low turnout — under 20 percent — over the past few years.
City Council rejected a 2015 University of Michigan proposal to move the 2016 primary election date from August to July.
The authors of the resolution, Public Policy junior Nadine Jawad and LSA senior Noah Betman, pointed to prior initiatives the University has taken to promote political participation, such as the Edward Ginsberg Center for Community Service and Learning — a space dedicated to engaging University students with the greater Ann Arbor community — and emphasized the fact that civic engagement is an ideal held by the University.
Jawad and Betman also argued the resolution would strengthen the relationship between the city of Ann Arbor and the University.
The resolution requests CSG to support this proposal, and that the authors present it to City Council at its next meeting.
CSG also held a town hall last semester, discussing the high costs of housing in the city. A major topic of the town hall was discussing students’ historically contentious relationship with Ann Arbor. State Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D–Ann Arbor), who served as a panelist, emphasized impacts of increasing housing costs, like the exclusion of students of lower socioeconomic status.
“(Ann Arbor’s) diversity is slowly escaping us,” Rabhi said. “If we don’t work hard and make sure we have our full options on where to live, not only will our student body become less diverse, our community will become less diverse.”
Panelist Mary Jo Callan, director of the Ginsberg Center, said students can be a huge ally in the efforts to combat high costs
Councilmember Zachary Ackerman (D–Ward 3),-who was elected as a senior in 2015- attended the meeting, agreed during the panel, adding that during city elections in August, the median age of the voter is 61 years old.
“(Ackerman) is a true ally, but he is one of 11,” Callan said. “Politicians only have as much courage as we, voters, the community, have.”
Jawad also mentioned that after holding a town hall and speaking with many residents of Ann Arbor, there was widespread support for the initiative.
“Students are a large constituency, and those that are divided between the wards we do want to make sure that the city council and the greater community knows that we’re not just here to get in and get out, we want to be active contributors.” Jawad said. “There’s a large amount of people in public opinion in favor of moving it to a nonpartisan election.”
The resolution passed 27-5 with five abstaining and with no additional amendments or objections.
In addition to the proposals to change the election day, LSA sophomore Ayah Issa and LSA senior Kaitlin Gant also introduced a resolution to the body asking the University to recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day, a holiday dedicated to Native Americans. The day takes the place of Columbus Day, which has been disregarded by the University on calendar.
The resolution states the University resides on land which historically belongs to Native Americans, and that both Washtenaw County and the city of Ann Arbor formally recognize Indigenous Peoples' Day. They also ask that this resolution is forwarded to local newspapers as well as the Division of Student Life and the Office of the Registrar. Gant wishes the administration would just acknowledge the day through material such as planners and calendars.
“As many of you know the enrollment numbers of Native Americans are scary low at this University, we don’t even show up on the pie charts at all.” Gant said. “This is one thing that the University can do to show their support for our community, especially because it’s so small and it’s so easy for us to be overlooked.”
Gant said small applications like adding the day could provide support for Native Americans since enrollment for the group is 80 students on campus.
CSG President David Schafer was fully in support of the resolution, applauding its progressiveness while also stating its importance when reflecting on the University’s history.
“I think this is a really powerful measure, especially in the context of the University’s bicentennial because I think we all know this is a society where we aggressively confront our history,” Schafer said. “Not only the better aspects of our history, but also the more troubling, the more unfortunate aspects of our history.”
Gant and Issa stated that indigenous communities are extremely underrepresented at the University, and believe the recognition of this holiday would decrease the community’s invisibility. They added that this movement has already taken place in East Lansing.
“I strongly feel like this is one step, changing one day without taking anything else away from anybody else; we’re just taking one day to support people who aren’t getting any recognition,” Gant said.
The resolution was passed on to the resolution committee for further review.