Last week’s Minnesota Student Association election saw a voter turnout of 14.28 percent, a significant rise from last year’s voter turnout of 3.26 percent.
This year’s election also saw the highest number of voters in the past four elections, with 3,549 students voting in comparison to 844 last year.
Sarah Shook won the final round of the instant runoff voting with 1,833 votes, the highest winning count of any presidential candidate in the past four years.
This was the first year instant runoff voting was used in the MSA election process. However, it is a method that the organization had been hoping to implement for several years.
“Until this year, we haven’t had enough candidates to do so, as IRV requires three or more candidates be on the ballot,” All Campus Elections Commission Adviser Ed Kim said.
MSA’s decision to eventually implement the IRV is based on the idea that the winner must achieve a “true majority” as opposed to simply the person with the highest immediate ballot count, Kim said.
While this may have encouraged competition at the polls, it still does not explain why turnout was so unprecedentedly high. A simple answer for some may be the need for change in leadership.
“I was angry with what’s going on,” Shook supporter Dan Garon said, “and I saw an opportunity to change campus in a powerful way.”
Garon said public safety and recent crimes on campus may have motivated students toward the polls.
Pre-election efforts of the ACEC could have also been a factor, Kim said.
“They encouraged the candidates themselves to promote and campaign as much as possible,” Kim said, “since it is ultimately the candidates who students will be voting for.”
In a year with a larger number of names on the ballot, students may have been driven to the polls largely by exposure to the process.
“In years past, there have only been two or one candidates,” vice-presidential candidate Paul Buchel said. “I think this year we were able to get in the faces of students a bit more.”
The use of social networking tools along with the engagement of multiple student groups allowed candidates to keep students interested, Buchel said.
Yet, all these efforts were driven by student concern for multiple issues, including tuition increases, Buchel said.
“I think any time you mention tuition, students listen a bit more intently,” Buchel said.
Buchel and his running mate, current MSA President Paul Strain, finished behind Shook in the final round of IRV this year with 1,285 votes, almost twice the number of votes that won Strain last year’s election.