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Election boasts record turnout

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Posted: Monday, March 24, 2014 1:00 am

The votes have been cast, final numbers tallied and, as happens every year, we have a new ASLMU president and vice president. As the Loyolan reported online late last week (in News Editor Ali Swenson’s article “Perez and Espinoza victorious after well-attended election”), junior political science and theological studies double major Alyssa Perez and junior political science and women’s studies double major Sofia Espinoza will serve in the highest student government positions next year.

But while the LMU community knows the who, the when and the what as soon as an election ends, the why and how are often left unexamined. What were the trends in this year’s race? How did this year’s election stack up against those of the past? The Loyolan has digested the official election report, found on ASLMU’s website, and this is what stood out.

The voting numbers breakdown

In order to avoid having to hold a runoff election, students are asked to rank their preference for each presidential candidate on their ballot. This allows for ASLMU to initiate an instant runoff – a process in which the first eliminated candidates’ votes all default to their second choice. This continues until one ticket gets a majority of votes.

In this year’s election, Perez and Espinoza got 1,171 first-place votes on the initial ballot. Junior communication studies major Eddie Estrada and junior film and television production major Ryan Alkire received 1,068 – a relatively close margin of 103 votes. After that first round, the 74 write-in votes were redistributed, with 25 going to Perez/Espinoza, 19 to Estrada/Alkire and nine going to the third place ticket, junior communication studies major Christian Goodie and sophomore entrepreneurship major Alex Factor. What happened to the remaining votes? Presumably, they did not rank a second choice, so their ballot was discarded.

Goodie/Factor’s 625 votes were redistributed in the third round, with 177 going to Estrada/Alkire, 289 to Perez/Espinoza and 159 again presumably being thrown out. Due to the 112-redistributed-vote gap between the remaining tickets – and Perez/Espinoza’s preexisting 109-vote lead – the winning ticket took home the election by a decisive eight percentage point margin.

The senatorial election process is less complicated: The nine candidates with the greatest plurality of votes win automatically, no runoff required. Notably, while the vote counts were pretty tight across the board, the leading candidate, freshman health and human sciences major LaShyra “Lash” Nolen, received over a thousand votes – the only candidate to do so, and with over 200 votes more than her closest competition.

“I was extremely surprised. … I was really nervous going into the election, because I was a freshman and we had more senatorial candidates running than ever,” Nolen said. “I just made it a point to go out and talk to people … and I’m just so glad that they trusted in me and that hard work paid off.”

The record turnout

Elections chair and senior communication studies major Erica Green had the same goal that every elections chair has had for years: get at least half of students to vote in an ASLMU election. The record has remained at just under 40 percent for the last several years, but thanks to an aggressive push from ASLMU, voting finally crossed the threshold. 

“I am so proud and inspired by the fact that our student body has showed great engagement and citizenship in their community by showing passion and interest in electing their future representatives,” Green told the Loyolan Thursday. The final tally of voters stood at 51.1 percent of students.

The swapped vice presidential candidate

As long as it is before the deadline to declare a presidential candidacy, a member of a presidential ticket can be changed, even if paperwork has already been filed. Such was the case with the Goodie/Factor ticket this year – originally, junior political science major Giovanni Douresseau was the vice presidential candidate.

But the ultimate plan was always to have Factor on the ticket. According to Douresseau, he was only listed to help Goodie make the filing deadline when the presidential candidate was having trouble getting in touch with Factor. Once they connected, Douresseau's name was replaced with Factor's.

Though he never planned on participating in this year's election, Douresseau did run in last year’s election as a presidential candidate with current ASLMU director of social justice and senior history major Chris Fennessey. His ticket came in third.

The potential Pi Phi effect

Notably, before last year, no ticket with women in both the presidential and vice presidential slots had ever won the ASLMU election. Perez and Espinoza mark the second in two years, after senior urban studies major Shawn Troedson and senior psychology major Caitlin Maher bucked the trend by winning last spring. 

Also notable: Both Perez/Espinoza and Troedson/Maher included a member of Pi Beta Phi on their tickets (Espinoza and Troedson). While it’s impossible to know how each member of Pi Phi voted, the organization has a large membership – currently 211 women, according to former chapter president and senior biology major Ellen Zirkelbach. Prior to the past two years, another Greek organization saw major success at the ballot box: 2012-13 ASLMU vice president-turned-president Vinnie Caserio and 2011-12 ASLMU president Art Flores were both members of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

The sanctions

ASLMU elections have rules, and if one or more candidates find another candidate or ticket to be out of order, they can file for a hearing. This happened three times this year. Twice, there was found to be no need for a hearing, but the third went to the Elections Committee and resulted in sanctions for two of the tickets – both about easels.

One part of the Elections Code prohibits the use of campaign materials not declared in an expense report. According to the report, Perez and Espinoza charged the other two tickets with using easels not declared in their expense report to display posters in U-Hall. Estrada and Alkire already had their easel, but didn’t declare it; Goodie and Factor borrowed their easel from Campus Ministry. After seeing Perez and Espinoza’s evidence and hearing testimony, the Elections Committee sanctioned Estrada/Alkire and Goodie/Factor by making them take down the easels.

For more on the elections, the full elections report can be downloaded on ASLMU’s website.

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