The undergraduate study body elected 10 new students to serve as senators for the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico Wednesday evening.
The elected senators, in order of descending vote count, are as follows: Selina Montoya, Téa Salazar, Jacob Silva, Sara AlMidany, Mohammed Jaber, Emerald Goranson, Holly Gallegos, Gabriel Ruja, Nick Morgan and Isez Roybal.
In total, 1,402 votes were cast in the Spring 2018 election, which is a decrease from past elections including last Fall when a record breaking 2,149 votes were received.
Emma Talbert, the executive director of the Elections Commission, said Spring tends to be a busier time for elections. However, Fall 2017 was a larger election, and she said that this may explain the differential between semesters.
Talbert said low voter turnout may be a consequence of the Smith Plaza renovation.
“A lot of traffic has been diverted around campus, so not as (much) contact has been made during campaigning,” she said.
When asked if other factors might have affected voter turnout, Talbert said, “I think it’s just overall apathy of the student body right now, because a lot of people aren’t happy with what’s going on with the regents...A lot of extenuating circumstances that (make) people (think), ‘Why even vote?’”
During ASUNM elections, students have the option to run alone or with an unofficial group called a slate. Slates often promote specific goals such as safety or diversity improvements.
However, students are elected individually, not by their slates. Individuals and slates still have the same limit on campaign spending, capped at $250, according to ASUNM’s election handbook.
Montoya, the election frontrunner, said she “feels on top of the world" about her appointment and that three fellow members of the Serve UNM slate were also elected.
“All of us have been involved in ASUNM in some way, shape or form,” she said. “We realize the limitations of ASUNM, and we realize what we can actually do.”
Montoya said Serve UNM ran on a platform focusing on campus safety, accountability and making clear what ASUNM’s role is at the University.
“Specifically with safety there is a committee that we want to do, and we want to hold and make it the culture that senators are accountable for representing the student voices,” she said.
Regarding the proposed campus safety committee, Montoya said she wants to be certain it is something that undergraduate and graduate students will be able to sit on.
Gabriel Ruja, from the Empower slate, was also elected. He said Empower ran on a platform focused on sexual assault awareness and campus safety, meaning how fires and other emergency situations are managed.
Ruja said each of the five candidates from Empower had one particular point of focus.
“(I) was based more on social media platform where we can showcase the things that are happening at UNM in a positive light,” he said. “For example, sororities and fraternities get a bad (reputation), but they do a lot of good for the community, and things like that aren’t really publicized.”
Ruja also said he wants to be a voice for “the underdogs” and help represent “smaller societies and groups that are overlooked, because they are not as well represented in Senate. I’m not in a fraternity and sorority, and I’m in biochemistry, which is a small major so I think I can represent that small community very well.”
Although all Senate positions are now filled, it is possible that the shifting of Senate positions may continue to take place. Talbert said she advises those who were not elected to “check their email during the summer, because it’s a long summer. Even if you didn’t get elected, people may drop.”
Austin Tyra is a news reporter at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @AustinATyra.