In an election that saw measly voter turnout, the dominant student government party, Michigan Action Party, won a vast majority of the available seats in last week’s elections for the Michigan Student Assembly and LSA Student Government.
Only 2,100 people voted in last week’s election out of 39,447 eligible voters. There were 2,756 voters in the fall of 2005 elections, the most recent available fall election information, according to election director Ryan Bouchard.
MAP Chair Alex Blouin attributed the low turnout to the election being held right after Thanksgiving Break. He said he thought the student population wasn’t conscious of the elections.
“We only had three days to campaign before the election,” he said, referring to the three days after Thanksgiving Break before the start of the election on Thursday. “We encountered many people that didn’t know what was going on.”
MAP won 17 out of 25 seats in MSA and nine out of 10 LSA-SG seats.
MAP is an umbrella party whose candidates often run on platforms that focus on specific issues like expanding Entrée Plus around Ann Arbor and campus safety. The focus of this semester’s election was freshmen, Blouin said. He said seven out of the nine MAP candidates for LSA-SG were freshmen and five of their 18 MSA candidates were freshmen – significantly higher than in years past.
He also said the party’s plans for student outreach – which include an increased effort to meet with student groups and administrators in person – would focus on getting freshman voices heard on the assembly.
MAP lost only a single seat on MSA – in the LSA election – despite a scandal-plagued semester that saw MAP member MSA Rep. Anton Vuljaj face a felony and a misdemeanor charge for allegedly tampering with the March 2006 elections and MSA President Zack Yost, one of the party’s founders, come under fire for his creation of a Facebook.com group that mocked MSA Rep. Tim Hull’s Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism.
MAP-backed candidates swept their elections with only the independent MSA candidate for LSA, Alex Serwer, a freshman, edging out a MAP candidate. Last fall, MAP took all of the LSA seats, and last spring they took all but one.
Similar to the election of independent candidate Hull in last spring’s elections, Serwer received significantly fewer individual votes, meaning that those votes had to be weighted heavily in his favor. Each voter prioritizes their candidates, and a higher priority results in more points toward election.
The Defend Affirmative Action Party, which is devoted to increasing diversity on campus, garnered three seats in the election, one fewer than in last fall’s midterm election. Although the party ran a larger slate than it has in the past, it did not beat both MAP and independent candidates in any race.
DAAP Party Chair Maricruz Lopez said her party’s poor showing could have been a result of the lack of awareness of the campaign. She said this was a direct result of the controversy over whether or not the School of Public Policy would receive a seat, which pushed the election back to the latest date possible.
“There are a lot of students who aren’t aware of the MSA election,” Lopez said. “That whole scandal in trying to disenfranchise Public Policy messed up the whole election.”
She said that her party would be prepared for a much stronger showing in spring, because the DAAP candidates, who were mostly running for the first time, gained valuable experience.
“All of our candidates are very optimistic for the spring,” she said.
Notable MAP incumbents Stella Binkevich, an MSA representative and chair of the powerful Budget Priorities Committee, and Sabrina Shingwani, MSA treasurer, both won their MSA elections in LSA.
Binkevich said she was glad to win her seat and was proud of her role as part of the senior MAP leadership.
There were ties for the School of Music and School of Pharmacy seat, which will be resolved in the upcoming weeks. The tied candidates will make a case for their seat in front of MSA at tomorrow’s meeting, and the assembly will decide on who will represent the school.