Students vote for real, imagined candidates in mid-year election

By Tom Hewitt
Sun Star Reporter

The ASUAF held its fall Senate elections last week, and if you missed out on voting, you’ve got plenty of company.

Just over 400 students turned out for the mid-year election, in which 10 Senate seats and one seat on the Concert Board were up for grabs.  That works out to about 6.2 percent of UAF’s eligible student body, but student government representatives said they’re not particularly disappointed in the result.
“For something put together as hastily as it was, I thought it went really well,” said ASUAF Government Relations Director Nicole Carvajal.

Student representatives had to act quickly to ensure the election took place at all.  Due to the ASUAF Elections Board’s inability to reach a quorum, the group failed to schedule the election, and the Senate had to devise an accelerated schedule in order to get the seats filled before students left for winter break.  Carvajal said that was one likely reason for the low turnout.  “One of the things we realized was the importance of having events to get out the vote,” she said. “We can’t just throw things together.”

Another factor in the low turnout may have been the absence of competitive races. Though 10 seats were open, only five candidates turned out, so half the seats were decided by write-in.

The write-in seats were the most hotly contested, by both real and fictional candidates.  David Apperson carried Seat M with six votes, but nipping at his heels were ASUAF regulars Ryan Duffy and Arthur Martin, as were Oprah, Kermit the Frog, Montgomery Burns, and James Brown.  One student even appeared to have used the ballot as a forum for protest, as he or she filled out the blanks on the form such that the written-in ‘candidates,’ when read in sequence, form the phrase, “THIS MAKES ME VERY SAD THERE IS NO REASON TO VOTE.”

As low as the turnout was, it could have been worse.  When ASUAF sister organization USUAA – the United Students of the University of Alaska Anchorage – held their last round of elections, fewer than 200 students came to the polls.  As UAA has an enrollment of 20,000, that’s less than one percent turnout.  The USUAA Assembly, with room for 23, currently has 10 empty seats.  “It’s hard to get people to vote on college campuses,” Carvajal said.

ASUAF Senate Chair Joshua Luther chose to maintain a positive outlook on the low turnout. “I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing,” he said.  “People will find out about [ASUAF] if they want to participate in the process.  Most students have the right priority, which is classes.”  Both Luther and Carvajal attributed the turnout and meager slate of candidates to short notice and student apathy.

Luther now has the unenviable task of finding out who among the write-in candidates will accept the seat they won.  “I’ll track them all down and get ahold of them,” Luther said.  Even when he can find the write-in winners, he says few of them turn out to be interested in holding office.  “It’s kind of a pain,” he said.  “You can quote me on that.”

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