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1117 - news.indd

ASUNM voter turnout slumps in recent election

Voter turnout for last week’s Associated Students of the University of New Mexico Senate elections was a fraction of that seen in previous semesters.

The 682 Lobos who voted last Wednesday amounted to a meager 40 percent of those who got to the polls a year ago.

According to data from ASUNM, at least 1,700 undergraduate students made it to both fall and spring elections last year. Meanwhile, the data state that this semester’s voter numbers failed to crack 700 for the first election in any semester – fall or spring – since the fall of 2007.

ASUNM Vice President Jenna Hagengruber said there is no doubt the number is low, but that accountability shouldn’t be placed on any single party.

“Six-hundred is a pretty low number, seeing as we have 20,000 undergraduate students,” she said. “It’s nowhere near where it should be, but I don’t think there’s anyone to blame for that.”

The ASUNM Elections Commission works hard to get the word out on elections, she said. Hagengruber added that ASUNM itself takes time to promote the elections on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on the day of.

Hagengruber said she knows from experience that this semester’s candidates, whether they won or not, worked tirelessly to get students to support them.

“It does take a lot of work, talking to new people all the time and meeting with a new student organization every day,” she said. “It takes a lot of stepping out of your comfort zone.”

Numbers had steadily been on the rise for fall elections between 2007 and 2013, with the exception of a slight drop in 2012. Since 2005, this is the first time voter turnout has dropped by more than 500 students for a fall election, with 1,023 fewer students coming out to vote compared to last fall.

In the fall of 2013 The Daily Lobo reported that the 1,705 lobos who cast ballots made up the “highest voter turnout of any fall-semester elections since 2005.” The following semester, The Daily Lobo reported that 2,303 cast ballots, “representing 10 percent of the University’s undergraduate students.”

Hagengruber said she thinks the turnout for this semester’s elections may well have been a fluke.

“It was just a weird year,” she said. “I don’t know if there was enough of getting the word out early enough. I think the elections kind of snuck up on everyone.”

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In an informal survey conducted by The Daily Lobo following the election, 14 of 20 undergraduates were aware that ASUNM elections had been held on Wednesday. Eleven of those 14 said they did not vote.

Hagengruber said she has had encounters with students who simply don’t see the importance of taking the time to cast a ballot, and that this attitude hurts ASUNM and the University as a whole. She said participating in elections helps the student government, which in turn helps the student body.

“I think it’s doing a disservice to your school by not voting, because these senators all really want to be here, and they need your votes to get on,” she said. “If students are going to complain about decisions the student government makes, then you need to vote.”

Gabe Gallegos, a freshman strategic communications major with aspirations of serving on ASUNM, advocates the difference it makes for UNM when students turn out to vote.

“Who you choose as your student representatives through ASUNM matters because they make important decisions and advocate to UNM administration on behalf of all undergraduates,” Gallegos said. “It’s important to make your voice heard.”

Hagengruber said the amount and methods of promoting ASUNM elections differ each year depending on who is the elections commissioner. Previous years have seen events lasting a month or more to bring attention to elections and their importance, she said.

Candidates did most of the promoting this year, utilizing flyers, chalk and teamwork to inspire students to support them. Eight of the nine members of the STRIVE slate were elected on Wednesday to serve as senators.

Hagengruber said last week’s election is a learning experience for everyone involved. She said that students who don’t vote are making just as big an impact as those who do.

“I do wish that more people would understand the impact that it has when you don’t vote,” she said. “If everyone came out and voted for who they wanted to represent them, you might see different results. I don’t know if I would be here.”

David Lynch is a staff reporter at The Daily Lobo. He can be reached at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.

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