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Everything you need to know about the upcoming University election

university-spring-elections-preview

This year's Spring General Election at UNC is around the corner, with early voting on Feb. 8 through Feb. 9 and election day on Feb. 14.

This cycle elects multiple student leadership positions: student body president, the undergraduate and graduate presidents, the senior class president and vice president, the Carolina Athletic Association president, the Residence Hall Association president and all undergraduate senators.

Ballot petitions were due Wednesday. The initial list of certified candidates were published on Thursday. The final list of certified candidates will be made public by Feb. 3.

This year’s election is especially important because alongside a new interim chancellor, there are opportunities for change, Speaker of the Undergraduate Senate Andrew Gary said.

“Student government, at its best, can do a lot of things for students,” Gary said. “But we are only at our best when students care to engage with it.”

Tyler Rohrig, acting vice chair for the Board of Elections, said the board is exploring as many means as possible to ensure students engage with the election. He said these include sending out mass emails, promoting the election on their Instagram account and possibly setting up tables in the Pit on Feb. 14, election day.

According to UNC Board of Election's records, only 14.43 percent of the 31,117 eligible voters filled out a ballot in last year’s spring student body elections. Yet, it was the highest turnout in multiple years.

In 2022, only 13.72 percent of eligible undergraduates voted. The year prior in 2021, the turnout was 11.17 percent.

Both Gary and Board of Elections Chair Sophie Van Duin said they understand many people don’t vote because they view UNC student government as being similar to high school student governments — party planning and organizing school dances.

“I feel like so many students don’t really understand the power that student government has,” Van Duin said.

Gary said it is important for students to reach out to student government members about their concerns because if members aren’t aware of problems happening on campus, they can’t use their influence to create change.

The Undergraduate Senate creates legislation, reforms and bills to address on- and off-campus issues. The University delegates to ability to allocate funds across student organizations to the Senate. This money comes from the student organizations' fee, a $24.50 per semester fee included in undergraduate tuition.

The Undergraduate Senate’s budget this year is more than $1.5 million. Gary said over 80 percent of that money is allocated to student organizations, with the rest going to select positions in student government and the UNC Board of Elections in the form of a stipend. Gary said he gets paid a yearly stipend of $4,200.

The Undergraduate Senate also holds two seats on the University Transportation Planning Advisory Committee, as well as a single seat on the chancellor's search committee.

In addition to the monetary power of the Undergraduate Senate, the student body president holds a voting seat on the Board of Trustees. Gary said this is a powerful position that gives students a voice among University leadership.

"Students are actively brought into these planning spaces, into these policymaking spaces," Gary said.

The finalized list of certified candidates will be published by the UNC Board of Elections before noon on Feb. 3.

The University BOE is kicking off election season with the Student Body President Debate on Feb. 6. A Q&A session will follow the debate, during which board members and attendees can ask questions of the candidates.

The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies will also host a debate on Feb. 8. When early voting starts, students can vote on HeelLife via a pop-up banner will appear when students log onto the platform.

Editor's Note: University Editor Lauren Rhodes will be a moderator at the Feb. 8 debate.

@aidan__lockhart

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@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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