Wednesday, 10 September 2003

One way to get people to vote

Elections for student body governments are, historically, very low-turnout affairs, for reasons that anyone who’s read the political science literature would predict: it is a low information environment, there are no party labels, and—to top it off—virtually nothing is at stake. With these conditions, it’s a miracle anyone votes in them at all. So the Ole Miss ASB decided to pump up the turnout a bit by adding a non-binding referendum on the future of the school’s mascot, Colonel Reb, to the ballot. And, lo and behold, there was a bump in turnout:

Almost 94 percent of the students who voted Tuesday’s non-binding special opinion poll held by the ASB want to keep Colonel Reb as the school’s athletic mascot.

Of the 1,687 student[s] who participated in the poll only 103 of them favored discarding the mascot, or one in 17 students.

The moral of the story: never underestimate the power of a mascot to get people to vote. But at least two people are taking this election seriously:

Keith Sisson, publisher of The New Standard, and his attorney spent much of Tuesday evening videotaping every move made by the ballot box from the Colonel Reb polling. Sisson also was allowed to place a signed evidence seal over the ballot box to verify to him that the box had not been tampered with.

Mr. Sisson apparently has confused Oxford with Chicago. It’s a common mistake. No word yet on whether the ACLU will be joining a suit on ballot security in this important, nay, crucial election.

Patrick Carver, posting at Southern Conservatives, has a somewhat different take on the poll.