The Associated Students of the University of New Mexico are gearing up for another round of senate elections and, with only 10 available seats and 28 contenders, this semester’s competition is sure to be a tight race.
Recent legislative changes have moved voting to back-to-back days. Polls open Monday morning, and online voting will remain available until Wednesday.
The change was endorsed by the ASUNM student service agency Elections Commission with the intent of increasing voter turnout.
“There is a specific group in (the ASUNM Senate), and they don’t reflect everyone,” said ASUNM Senator Emily Hartshorn, who introduced the election-changing legislation.
Part of Hartshorn’s motivation to push through the legislation was to increase voter turnout and, as a result, increase the diversity of the students’ representative body.
“The 20 senators are here to represent all students, not just the Greek program,” she said. “It is something we need to talk about.”
The push for diversity is also coming from the executive desk.
“The most important goal is to bring in diversity,” said Sally Midani, ASUNM vice president, in an August interview with the Daily Lobo.
Though exact numbers were unclear at the first mandatory candidate meeting, there is a large pool of Greek life students running for office.
While diversity in ASUNM is a concern for some, the primary goal for the Elections Commission is to ensure as many students as possible cast their votes. In the past, that has proven to be a challenge.
Over the last decade, an average of 1,500 students have participated in ASUNM elections. Last year 2,416 students and 1,551 students voted in the presidential and senatorial elections, respectively. That means about 10 percent of students make it out for ASUNM elections.
On Nov. 1, candidates were endorsed by various chartered student organizations. During the endorsement forum, representatives from the three election slates responded to questions.
All three slates — Collective, Lead ASUNM and Think UNM — have candidates contending in the election. Slates are groups of candidates who run with similar campaign goals, pooling their advertising and support. In previous elections, only candidates who were on slates made it into the next year’s Senate.
After the forum, it is clear there will be a focus on financial responsibility, accountability and internal diversity.
Brendon Gray is a beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers ASUNM. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @notgraybrendon.