“I am incredibly disappointed in the Senate as a whole,” Vice President Mikenzie Chessman said after the failure of Bill 9F on a 6-14-0-0 vote on Wednesday, Sept. 27 during a full Senate meeting.
Proposed to combine the Presidential and Senatorial General Election, Bill 9F would have done so by an amendment to the Associated Students at the University of New Mexico’s Constitution.
The bill was sponsored by President Krystah Pacheco, Vice President Mikenzie Chessman, Senator Alfred Achusim, and Executive Director of the Elections Commissions Heidi Garcia. Bill 10F, sponsored by the same individuals, goes alongside Bill 9F and would have done the same but would alter the law book instead of the Constitution. Both failed.
“If you are opposed to a piece of legislation, talk to the author before we get here and spend all this time talking about it in full senate,” Chessman said.
Discussions about the possibility of a “superslate” arose several times in the senate meeting.
A slate is when a group of candidates run with similar platforms and support one another. A superslate is when this happens alongside concurrent senatorial and presidential elections. This could make it harder for candidates to be elected if they were not a part of the superslate.
“If we fail this bill, there would be no threat of a superslate at all,” Achusim said.
These bills were in an effort to improve voter turnout, Pacheco said. In the spring 2023 Presidential Election, 476 students voted; in the senatorial election, 162 people voted. During the public comment, Garcia spoke about past voter turnout statistics from prior elections, both with and without a combined election.
In the spring of 2016, ASUNM held combined elections and had a voter turnout of 1,525 people. In the spring of 2017, the elections were separated and had a voter turnout of 2,416 people for the presidential elections and a turnout of 1,551 people for the senatorial election.
Senator Hope Montoya said she discussed this legislation with students on campus and they felt doing more outreach and marketing would allow ASUNM to reach more students.
Senatorial sponsor of the bill shared these thoughts. “(This bill) won't necessarily increase voter turnout the way polling stations would,” Achusim said.
Several senators, including Senator Gabriel Gurule, said instead of combining elections, the Elections Commission should be better funded by ASUNM, alongside more polling stations and further outreach to students to improve voter turnout. “This was a piece of legislation that failed in a past senate meeting,” Gurule said.
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“If the intention of this bill were to increase voter turnout, I don’t think this (bill) is the way to help … A lot of the turnout could be based on the voter stations and fully funding the elections team,” Gurule said.
Pacheco said large numbers of students signed up for Fall Frenzy. There are record numbers of scholarship applications and full screenings at the Southwest Film Screenings.
“We're seeing really high levels of engagement thus far and it’s only the start of the semester,” Pacheco said.
Exclusively, having online voting could have created a barrier for student voters, Montoya said. The implementation of in-person elections and more outreach events could be a potential solution.
“Let's look at the numbers after we set up in-person polling, and do a bit more outreach,” Senator Adrianna Casaus said.
The Full Senate meets again on Wednesday, Oct. 11 with Mayor Tim Keller as their special guest speaker. Full senate meetings are open to public comment.
Karina Bolaños is the Culture Editor at the Daily Lobo. They can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org