On May 13, 2013, voters will flock polling stations nationwide to cast their ballots for the Philippine 2013 mid-year elections. According to the Philippine News Agency, 18,022 national and local positions will be up for election, including those in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the local governments of each region, province, city, and municipality.
According to the Commission on Elections, the number of registered voters for this year’s midterm elections has a base of 52 million; 1.3 million higher than the 50.72 million count in the 2010 presidential elections, and presently the record holder for the election with the most registered voters. Similarly, the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance reports that in the Philippines, voter turnout for the presidential elections in 2010 was at a 74 percent high, with approximately 37 million voters casting their votes.
Voting behavior, or what determines whom citizens vote, is influenced by multiple factors, some more prevalent in environments without a freely enabled democracy.
A 2011 paper by Rohini Pande from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government examined voter behavior in low-income countries, and revealed the electorate’s openness to new information about the performance of politicians, using these as a factor in their voting choices. Voter choices also indicated a strong preference for ‘high quality and non-corrupt politicians’ in environments like the Philippines, where there was limited change in governance trends.
Undeveloped sentiments and avenues for expression
A 2004 study by the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform cites that the youth is significantly hopeful about electoral reform. The study shows that the mean age in a municipality has a positive significant relationship with voter turnout.
The results of this study may be related to a working paper by DLSU psychology students Bryan Uy (III, PSM-MKT) and Migi Moreno (III, PSM-LGL), whose thesis examines the broader concept of political maturity among private and public university students in the Philippines. The latter is currently running for president of the University Student Government (USG) as an independent candidate.
The study revealed that 482 or 82 percent of the sample would be eligible voters by May 13, 2013 – the time of the 2013 national and local elections. Of this number, however, only 103 or 21 percent have registered at their local precincts. Of these 103, 82 will be voting for the first time.
The study also revealed several important facets of political maturity among Lasallians. Roughly 39 percent professed that they do not involve themselves in projects that promote any particular advocacy, be it in poverty alleviation, education, environment, or other possible advocacies; additionally, 27 percent say that they have not volunteered for any social or community development projects.
The paper goes on to show that 34 percent of Lasallian respondents would participate given an opportunity for consultation regarding political and social issues and decisions.
Too little engagement
University wide practice of the right to suffrage is a different matter. DLSU’s two political parties, Santugon Sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) and Alyansang Tapat sa Lasallista (Tapat), have differing opinions on student voting behavior in the University.
Santugon President Ernest Joseph Pugeda classifies that voter behavior, according to the colleges of voters and as a whole, might need to be more involved when it comes to exercising their right to suffrage. He says, “We recognize that Lasallian voting behavior varies from one college to another. As a whole, however, we perceive Lasallians as involved students, but not enough to say that they are active when it comes to voting.”
Former Tapat President Gab Andres gives a more emphatic stance towards the preparedness of Lasallians to vote critically, saying, “I believe that the La Salle vote is a mature vote. One of the many things that we can be proud of as Lasallians is our intense and active political environment. We have strong political institutions that make up this environment, University committees concerning political issues outside, and of course political organizations that [are] heavily grounded on progressive political ideology and principles. All these and more have contributed to the La Salle vote, may it be in school elections or national elections.”
To try and factor how voters might be able to consider the best candidates for the job, political parties use poll mapping techniques based on observation and research, and classify voters according to their blocks, courses, and colleges to determine if their vote would be for the yellow or the orange.
Andres shares that Tapat predictions or projections are based on how well the party has surveyed the entire student population prior to the elections. The party uses its own metrics. She shares, “We make predictions depending on the number of rooms we’ve entered for our speeches, the performances of our candidates and core for the day, and how we answer unforeseen circumstances from uncontrollable conditions.”
Pugeda reveals that Santugon uses observation and research to monitor voter behavior, and that the most crucial aspect of his party’s poll mapping is its accuracy. “Being able to accomplish other factors without accuracy will lead to an unreliable poll map,” he states. Santugon, however, declined to disclose other particulars of its political mapping methodology, although the party does confirm that it uses poll mapping to forecast the number of votes.
Relating these methods to Lasallian national voting behavior, however, elicits similar observations from both parties. Andres goes on to relate Lasallian voting in the national context with voting behavior inside the University. He adds, “The political system outside has fostered a culture of too little engagement from the people.” He adds that small movements in the form of participation in University-level elections are necessary to influence non-Lasallian voting behavior.
Pugeda agrees. “The responsibility of voting as a Filipino citizen will follow when we take an active part in a community that is closer to us. Realizing the importance of voting at an early age will have a huge impact in how a society progresses.”
Voter turnout and the general voting behavior during these elections is critical in deciding the sustainability of national programs and their implementation at the local level. The youth are a huge chunk of this year’s voter turnout. According to data from the World Bank, 26 million voters, a little more than half of the registered voting population, in the Philippine 2010 presidential elections was composed of the youth and persons under 30 years old.
With such a participation rate, voter turnout and participation may be similar in University-level elections, where even students not yet of voting age practice their right to suffrage and informed choice based on the campaigns and platforms of student leaders vying for public positions.
According to the DLSU Commission on Elections last year, voter turnout averaged 60 percent of the student population, hitting the 50% + 1 minimum percentage of votes that each candidate must secure to be elected into their position.