Undergraduate student government elections saw the lowest voter turnout since 2014 for the final election of the academic year, according to statistics collected by the Daily Lobo. 

Just 837 students voted in the Associated Students of the University of New Mexico (ASUNM) senate elections — representing about 5.6% of the undergraduate body this semester. 

Todd Moe, who heads the ASUNM Elections Commission, said he was disappointed with the turnout, but said the coronavirus pandemic — and the suspension of in-person classes — likely played a role. 

“ I understand why it was low and I imagine that everyone else will understand as well, with everything going on in the world. But we aren't satisfied with the turnout and we hope to do better,” Moe said. 

ASUNM President Pro Tempore Emma Hotz — who received the most votes of any candidate at 393 — expressed her dissatisfaction with the way this election was handled. 

“I was not happy with the current outreach we did for elections,” Hotz said. “Seeing that it was online and so many senators expressed concerns, I was expecting more social media outreach and emails by the Elections Commission  weeks prior, yet that did not happen.”

Amidst the University-wide flux in the weeks leading up to the election, Hotz was one of the senators who voiced concerns. She thought the election should’ve been postponed. 

“I did not think this election should happen during a pandemic because it did not allow for students that lacked a social media presence to campaign in person and on campus,” Hotz said. 

The timeframe for cancellation would’ve forced the 30 candidates — a recent high water mark for participation — to cease their campaigns. Many current Senators, including some running for reelection, didn’t want that either. 

Last month, Hotz lost her bid for vice president of ASUNM. 

Moe said he was in favor of proceeding with the election because he thought it was important in providing the student body a sense of normalcy. 

“If we postponed the election until the fall, we would need at least 5 weeks to run the election process. That would mean that the election wouldn't be until late September. We would also have only 9 Senators in office,” Moe said. “And I stand by this decision 100 percent.”

No matter the internal ASUNM opinions, the senators who secured a seat were eager to begin their legislative duties. 

One of the first-time senators elected, Raina Harper, said she wants to increase communications between the student body and ASUNM in her term, something that ASUNM continues to struggle to do. 

“There needs to be greater levels of information sent out, targeting students in all departments, about legislative decisions that will affect them, and a greater level of communication between ASUNM and student organizations,” Harper said. 

Harper added that she would like to serve on the Outreach & Appointments committee. The three committees senators can sit on — Finance, Steering & Rules and Outreach & Appointments — are assigned by the vice president. 

Steering & Rules scan the grammar and semantics of all legislation and spearheads changes to ASUNM’s Law Book and Constitution. Outreach & Appointments develop ways to outreach to the student body, evaluate presidential appointments and make recommendations to the entire senate. Finance tackles the nitty-gritty of budget requests and appropriations. 

Outgoing ASUNM Vice President and Senior Madelyn Lucas had advice for the incoming senators. 

“Communication is incredibly important,” Lucas said. “Don’t avoid talking to others because they hold different beliefs than you; embrace the discomfort and work to make campus better. ASUNM is a government organization, but it should not be a political one.”

The vice president also oversees and advises the senate. Lucas’ successor, Finance Senator Ana Milan, will fill this role come fall. 

In all, Sahana Ummadi, Helen Zhao, Alina Le, Raina Harper, Romie Sandoval, Daniella Rodriguez, Sarah Ann Polsin and BrookeLynne Southern — who won in a coin-toss after tying with Claire Karo (173 votes each) — will all serve as first time senators. 

Hotz, Jacob Silva (who lost the presidential election and accused his opponent of running unfair) and Briana Flores were all reelected. 

Alyssa Martinez is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @amart4447.