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Alex Schnell, election commissioner for the University of Colorado Student Union, reviews applications for candidates in the upcoming elections on Tuesday. Elections begin April 5.
Stephen Swofford
Alex Schnell, election commissioner for the University of Colorado Student Union, reviews applications for candidates in the upcoming elections on Tuesday. Elections begin April 5.

After years of low voter turnout and several uncontested seats, CU students may be taking greater notice of student government affairs.

The number of candidates running in the upcoming University of Colorado Student Union (UCSU) election has more than doubled from last spring because of controversial issues being tackled by the current administration, according to student government members, who said more competition could mean more voters.

Funding for student groups and possible renovations to the university Recreational Center have been hot-button issues for students, UCSU election commissioner Alex Schnell said. Other issues, too — including CU’s high sustainability rating and increasing diversity on campus — are getting students “riled up” and encouraging them to take a stance through student government.

After Monday night’s deadline, nearly 40 candidate applications had been turned in, including two tickets for the tri-executive seats. There are 17 open seats in the election, which runs April 5-9.

“I’m looking at the (spring) 2009 results, and none of the seats were contested,” Schnell wrote in an e-mail. “Everyone who ran got a seat.”

Schnell and other student leaders predict the high candidacy rate is an early sign that the election will also see an increase in voter turnout, a goal they’ve been working toward since December.

This semester has already seen changes, including a new candidate application process and a proposal to change UCSU’s name to the University of Colorado Student Government. Student voters will decide on the name change in April’s election.

CU junior Travis Krogman, who is running to become an Arts and Sciences representative, said he was driven to action by ongoing issues, such as diminishing funding for higher education and student groups.

If you go

What: Candidates gala and debate

When: 7 to 10 p.m. March 30

Where: UMC room 235

More info: Visit UCSU’s Facebook page, Ucsu Studentgov

Though Krogman has never participated in student government before, he said this semester’s heightened competition is encouraging.

“It is wonderful to see that so many students are willing to step up to the plate and attempt to solve some very difficult problems that are currently facing CU,” Krogman said.

The competition is forcing incumbent student leaders to step up their game, too.

Seniors Will Taylor, who’s in his second term as chair of the Representative Council, and Hunter Barnett, a representative at large, are both running for student body president on separate tri-executive tickets.

They said the high number of candidates shows the success of the current administration, and their previous UCSU experience will make them even better prepared next year.

Taylor said he expects higher turnout.

“The candidates involved this semester are enthusiastic and really want to make a difference,” he said. “I think it shows that we are willing to work harder.”

Barnett agreed, but said it’s not just competition and university issues that will bring students to the polls.

“The national administration is creating a buzz about politics right now, and students want to fight for what they believe in, including at the campus level,” he said.

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