Nearly 6,400 students voted in the University of Colorado student government elections this week, the highest voter turnout in nine semesters.
More than 20 percent of eligible CU students voted in the spring student government election amid uncertainty about how the governing body's more than $23 million budget will be handled moving forward. The polls opened Monday and closed Thursday night.
Last Wednesday, less than a week before polls opened, Chancellor Phil DiStefano announced he would move more than 90 percent of the student budget to the office of Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Christina Gonzales. He walked that back after a student rally outside the University Memorial Center and student speeches at the Board of Regents meeting in Colorado Springs last Thursday.
This semester, 6,390 of 31,104 eligible students cast votes, according to CUSG election commissioner and senior Alexa Donner. The last time the number of voting students topped 6,000 was in the spring 2013 elections.
Students chose among five tickets, each with three students, and an additional independent student ticket in the student body presidential race. The presidents of the student body typically split their duties as tri-executives. Students were also allowed to cast votes for more than one ticket.
Results will not be finalized until after a hearing on any reported campaign infractions next week. However, preliminary results show the "Ignite" ticket won with 2,487 of the 8,579 votes. Junior David Kidd and sophomores Olivia Wittenberg and Jake Reagan ran on the Ignite ticket. They beat the second place ticket, "Empower," by just 208 votes.
The Ignite ticket declined to answer questions during the transition but said in a message that they look forward to productive discussions with DiStefano regarding CUSG's budget and autonomy. Their online platform emphasized safety, sustainability and service. They outlined policy goals that included training student-volunteer EMTs to attend fraternity and house parties, installing locks and blinds in every campus classroom to be used in the event of an active harmer, providing campus bathrooms with two-ply toilet paper, promoting student involvement, and improving access to research and other academic opportunities.
"In light of recent events with the chancellor and CU student government, it is more important now than ever that we have the right people leading us forward," Reagan said in a video statement posted online Monday. "... At Ignite, we believe in safety, sustainability and service — but above all, defending your voice (and) making sure that you have a student government that represents you and your interests."
Donner said she believed efforts to increase the number of tickets in the election and improve visibility of the elections drove voter turnout, as well as strong student sentiments about the CUSG budget.
"This is why these elections are so crucial, because we have a big say in what's happening," Donner said. "I really do think with everything that's happened with the chancellor, that brought voter turnout up dramatically."
In addition to the tri-executives, students selected four at-large representatives, who are also subject to infraction hearings if complaints are lodged against their campaigns. Students also passed a constitutional amendment with 84.3 percent voting in favor of it.
The wide-ranging amendment was the first passed since 2012, according to its author, CU senior Gabriel Elbert. It clarified language, codified traditions that had been followed but were not enumerated in the constitution, changed some voting threshold requirements, and aligned the student government anti-discrimination policies with those of the university and state, Elbert said.
"If we're representing students we should be, at the minimum, in line with the university," Elbert said of the anti-discrimination policy.
Cassa Niedringhaus: 303-473-1106, email@example.com