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Student Congress special election turnout still low

Speaker Pro Tempore Peter McClelland said the reason for this discrepancy lies in student voter participation, especially in the graduate districts.

“The number of votes needed to win in a district is mostly up in the air,” McClelland said. “It depends on how many people there are for how many seats and the motivation to get people out to vote.” Undergraduate student districts are determined by where the students live. To be placed on the ballot for their district, students must attend a candidate meeting, gather 20 unique signatures and run a weeklong campaign.

Graduate students are divided into separate districts based on their course of study.

Of the 18 seats open in the special election, 11 were from the three graduate and professional student districts. The one unfilled seat was from the graduate and professional District 11.

“The reason (graduate students) are not all lumped into one mega-district is because that would likely result in severe overrepresentation of the professional students and severe underrepresentation of the graduate students,” McClelland said.

T he election results point to low visibility and voter turnout.

Alexander Piasecki, a Board of Elections chairman who works with Student Congress and the Executive Board to facilitate elections, said participation is so low that some graduate students are written in and win even without a ballot spot.

“You can consider these as midterm elections in terms of turnout,” said freshman Maurice Grier, who sought an open District 4 position.

Grier called these elections crucial because they can be the first step for students looking to broaden their role in Student government; for example, former Speaker of Congress Connor Brady was first elected via special election.

“We need to pay more attention to these elections, as these are likely to be the people that are running the school in three years,” Grier said.

Despite the low turnout, this special election has seen improvement from years past. McClelland said he was pleased with the results.

“Special elections are always hit-or-miss with very little to explain why it’s the case, so I didn’t really have any expectations,” he said.

McClelland said there are no election process changes in the works, but there have been past attempts to turn the process into an instant runoff system.

Only 3,000 people — about a tenth of UNC’s enrollment — voted in the special election, but Piasecki said he also remains positive.

“It’s still not where we want it to be, but there was improvement from last year,” he said.

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