In a near repeat of last year’s Michigan Student Assembly and LSA Student Government election results, the Michigan Action Party swept aside the competition in last week’s MSA and LSA-SG elections, winning the presidential and vice presidential spots in both organizations.
LSA junior Sabrina Shingwani and Ross School of Business junior Arvind Sohoni, the MAP presidential and vice presidential candidates for the assembly, secured their victory by winning 1,730 votes, or about 71 percent of all votes, in the election.
LSA junior Leslie Zaikis and LSA sophomore John Monaghan, the MAP presidential and vice presidential candidates for LSA-SG, ran unopposed.
All 13 of MAP’s MSA representative candidates – nine in LSA, two in the College of Engineering, one in the School of Art and Design and one in the Division of Kinesiology – won in their bids for a seat on the assembly. The party also won all nine available representative seats on LSA-SG.
The downward trend in voter participation in the MSA elections continued this year.
With 2,246 votes cast, about 6.4 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in MSA election.
Despite the convincing victory, Sohoni addressed in an interview this year’s abysmal turnout, saying it was a “big issue” for the assembly.
He said the low turnout reflected the need for candidates to better engage the student body and encourage more participation.
“This old model of just knocking on doors to see how many kids you can get, I mean, in terms of getting elected, it worked, but it’s not working at bringing kids into the process,” Sohoni said. “We need to brainstorm ways – not as a party but as MSA – to get more kids to vote.”
Sohoni said the low turnout won’t prevent the assembly’s new leaders reaching out to students and advocating on their behalf on important issues.
“People are always going to look at (voter turnout) and point at that and say, ‘Well, no one really voted so it doesn’t really matter,’ ” he said. “But we can’t let that get to us. We just have to go in there and do our job by working harder at it now.”
As they transition into their new roles, which become official tomorrow, Sohoni said he and Shingwani plan to meet with current MSA President Mohammad Dar and other members of the assembly’s executive board to swap ideas and pick up tips from their colleagues.
Sohoni said he will continue initiatives aimed at lowering health insurance costs for students and plans to lay the groundwork for voter participation initiatives for the fall semester.
Although Defend Affirmative Action Party presidential candidate Kate Stenvig and vice presidential candidate Maricruz Lopez fell short in their bids for executive office, both said they were pleased to see five DAAP representatives win seats on the assembly.
Stenvig and Lopez won 580 votes, or 24 percent in the election.
Lopez said the five representatives – one from the Law School, one from the School of Education and three from the Rackham Graduate School – will promote DAAP’s goals of defending affirmative action on the assembly in the upcoming year.
“They’re definitely going to be leading the assembly and enacting DAAP’s program, specifically on the defense on affirmative action and maintaining an integrated campus,” Lopez said.
DAAP captured an almost identical percentage of the total votes in this year’s election as they did last year, winning 24 percent in 2008. The party won 25 percent of the vote in 2007.
Although she and Stenvig will not be members of the assembly, Lopez said the pair will continue to work on behalf of DAAP’s supporters on campus.
“Me and Kate not winning the presidency is not going to prevent us from being active with MSA,” she said. “The 24 percent of people who voted for us, we’re really thankful for them and we’re going to work with MSA with their interests in mind.”
Lopez also said she would like to see the assembly resume holding presidential debates pitting individuals running for MSA executive office. A debate, she said, would give candidates a chance to lay out their goals and get more students engaged in the election process.
Although a member of MAP will hold every seat in LSA-SG beginning this week, Monaghan said students who view MAP as a single, homogeneous voting bloc often overlook the diversity of people and ideas contained within the party.
He said this year’s MAP candidates for LSA-SG constituted a cross-section of the University, with transfer students, international students and students from different races and ethnicities all appearing on the LSA-SG ticket representing MAP.
Those candidates, Monaghan said, also represented a wide range of differing ideas on how LSA-SG should operate for the upcoming year.
“There certainly is diversity within the party, and if people think that we’ll all vote the same, you’ll definitely see that’s not the case,” he said.
Although ultimately unsuccessful in their bids for office, write-in candidates made up 4 percent of this year’s MSA elections.
Candidates included “MO’ MONEY, MO’ BITCHEZ, MO’ DAR,” referring to current MSA President Mohammad Dar, presidential hopeful Barack Obama, former Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr, perennial favorite Mickey Mouse and former MSA President Zack Yost.