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Elections reveal class inconsistencies

Claire Heininger | Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Sophomores didn’t care. Juniors and freshmen spoke up.

From one extreme to another, the fallout from Feb. 12 student body presidential election – a neck-and-neck race between Adam Istvan-Karla Bell and Charlie Ebersol-James Leito that required an emergency meeting of the Student Senate to declare Istvan/Bell the winner – had a clear impact on voter turnout in Monday’s primary class council elections.

While only 798 juniors voted in the student body primaries and 907 in the runoff, 1,053 voted for the officers of the class of 2005 – a race that will be decided Thursday in a runoff between the Darrell Scott-Lauren Flynn-Tom Raaf-Kristin Boyd (43.2 percent) and Katie Boyle-Brian Agganis-Sarah Bates-Steph Aberger (36.1 percent) tickets.

Scott attributed the increased voter participation to the considerable publicity – both positive and negative – generated by the previous election.

“The Ebersol-Istvan matchup may have increased voter apathy, but it helped out in getting student union issues to the forefront,” he said.

Boyle agreed the presidential election was a “pretty big factor” in attracting student interest. She added that especially for current juniors, class council representatives can seem more accessible and relevant than the student body president during their senior year.

“The immediacy of our concerns is important,” Boyle said, naming Senior Week and class reunions as important responsibilities of the senior class officers. “The junior class has a vested interest in seeing a good ticket elected – it will make or break our senior year at the University. … It’s easier for voters to think about life on campus, and then after college with the reunions, than about getting someone into the Board of Trustees.”

Judicial Council president Elliot Poindexter expressed similar thoughts about juniors’ priorities.

“I would attribute the increase in juniors voting to already having more apathy for the student body presidential elections,” he said, adding that the controversial outcome did “not necessarily” influence juniors’ choices.

Sophomore voters seemed to move somewhat in the opposite direction. Only 990 voted for the officers of the class of 2006, a decrease from the presidential primaries (1,077) and only a slight increase from the runoff (952). The class of 2006 race also required a Thursday runoff, as 36.7 percent voted for the Steve Miller-Ben Zerante-Patricia Adams-Erika D’Addabbo ticket and 26.2 percent voted for the Vijay Ramanan-Lauren Mullins-Lauren Hallemann-Emily Short ticket.

Both Miller and Ramanan cited the aftermath of the presidential elections as a negative factor in sophomore participation and said they would step up their campaigns over the next few days in order to combat the apathy shown Monday.

“People were really disenchanted with the whole thing,” Miller said. “The [Student] Senate decision didn’t do anything to make students think they had a voice in student government.”

Ramanan agreed with Miller that the controversy of the previous election contributed to the low turnout, but added that many voters in his class simply didn’t know an election was held – a problem he hoped to fix by Thursday.

“My instincts would tell me there was a certain bit of fallout,” he said. “I think the number of people voting Thursday will be quite different.”

Freshman voters displayed the highest turnout, as 1,233 votes were cast for the officers of the class of 2007 as opposed to 1,069 votes cast in the presidential primaries and 1,028 in the runoff. The Jason Laws-Bill Andrichick-Megan Spokes-Laura Horne ticket won the election outright, receiving 50.8 percent.

Laws said the freshman response reflected not only a “strong sense of community within [the] class,” but also a heightened awareness of their power to swing an election’s outcome.

“Our class has seen how much their vote can count,” Laws said. “They wanted to make sure they had the people they wanted to represent them.”

Poindexter agreed the more elections freshmen experience and the more they are targeted by campaigns, the more motivation they have to participate.

“With each election they get more used to it,” he said. “There were also multiple candidates spending more time to reach every freshman. … When there are fewer votes on the table you have to treat every vote more carefully.”