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Friday, December 19, 2014

Record turnout in election

news@dailylobo.com
@zachpavlik

The Associated Students of the University of New Mexico on Wednesday night celebrated a record student voter turnout of the past five presidential elections.

According to documents distributed by ASUNM’s Elections Commission, the number of ballots cast by undergraduate students this year was 2303, up from last spring’s count of 1521.

Malika Ladha, executive director of the Elections Commission, said the voter turnout represented 10 percent of the University’s undergraduate students, whereas in the past, they have only seen 7 percent.

Ladha said this is a very positive result, and it represents a major achievement in the push toward greater student involvement. She said that this is a great sign for ASUNM, candidates and for the University community.

“I think it definitely means that more students are trying to get involved with ASUNM, and they are trying to get a voice in who represents them,” Ladha said. “That’s incredibly exciting. It’s exciting for the Elections Commission and for ASUNM as a whole.”

Ladha said the credit for the record turnout cannot be given to a single group, but instead is shared by the candidates, the commission and the voters themselves.

“I like to think it’s a mixed effort,” Ladha said. “We had some great candidates running for senate this year, and for president and vice president. It comes down to how hard they campaign, how long they’re out there, how many student organizations they’re meeting with. I would like to attribute a little bit of credit to the elections commission as well. We’ve placed an immense emphasis on outreach the last two semesters.”

She said that the commission focused on getting the word out through countless mediums, including heavy emphasis on social media and advertising, during the past two semesters.

“It’s simple things—changing your profile pictures, having an active presence on social media, ads everywhere, putting posters up,” she said. “We work with the Daily Lobo. This time we had online applications for the first time.”

Mallory Paige, assistant director of the elections committee, said the future looks bright for ASUNM and for the election process. She said the newly elected members are going to be vital to the process, and she thanks all the students who voted for doing their part.

“I think that the senators that we just elected are passionate people and I think they are going to keep it going,” Paige said. “I think the commissioners that we have, have trained and have taught about elections are going to keep that strong. Thank you for voting.”

This is Ladha’s last semester as director of the commission, her term expires in May. She said she advises the next director to be prepared and to keep ASUNM’s outreach momentum going.

“Always be prepared,” Ladha said. “But most importantly, I hope the new director will keep up our outreach efforts. It’s not always the responsibility of the candidates to bring in those votes. Some of the responsibility falls to this office.”