Last-minute voters sought

Tracy Ellingson

Minnesota Student Association presidential hopefuls Corey Donovan and Jigar Madia found they had similar ideas about the best places to do some last-minute campaigning Wednesday.
Madia, who stood outside Coffman Memorial Union while his running mate, Bridgette Murphy, worked on gathering voters in St. Paul, said they had been running into their opponents all over campus.
“It was kind of funny,” Donovan said, “Jigar and I would walk side-by-side up to people and meet them.”
The candidates and their supporters were out soliciting votes on the first day of the all-campus elections, and turnout at the polls was steady, but not overwhelming. About 1,000 students voted Wednesday, compared to the 2,000 or so who hit the polls on the first day of the elections last year. The eight polling stations will be open again today and results of the elections will be tallied sometime tonight.
“You can talk to people and you can shove the literature down their throats, but you can’t make them vote,” said Shannan Stewart, who distributed literature for Madia and Murphy. “If the number of people who told us they are going to vote actually vote, the number would be amazing. It would be unprecedented.”
Campaigners for running mates Derek Shemon and Jason Strid were hard to spot Wednesday, most likely because they are the only ones on their campaign team.
Members of the All-Campus Election Commission, which runs the polling stations and counts the votes, said the candidates have the responsibility of drawing in the voters.
Commissioner Tim Morrison, who worked at the St. Paul campus polling station Wednesday, said his station had a steady flow of voters.
“The candidates are doing a good job of getting people here to vote,” he said.
But Shamez Babvani, a current MSA senator who is up for re-election, said this year’s race has not created the interest nor enthusiasm of last year’s campaign season.
“The presidential race could have been a lot more interesting,” Babvani said. “Last year’s (candidates) were a lot more interesting. They went out there; they fought for each vote.”
Commission adviser Denise Tolbert said the group reported a record-high voter turnout last year of about 3,000, or 13 percent of the undergraduate student body. Despite changes in the polling stations — this year students must vote at a location specific to their colleges of enrollment — and lower first-day turnout, Tolbert said she expects last year’s total will be equalled after the votes are all cast.
“I think we’ll see a full-court press (today),” Tolbert said, adding that she thinks most members of the greek community will probably vote today. Tolbert said the greek vote will likely be split, as Murphy and Donovan’s running mate, Kiaora Bohlool, are both in sororities. In general, Tolbert said, the race is a tight one so far.
Franco Cusiphe, a CLA freshman, said he voted to exercise his right as a student and specifically to support Madia, who Cusiphe said has good ideas for the student body.
Teri Angst, a junior in the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, agreed that voting in the all-campus elections was a student’s responsibility.
“It seems important for a student to be involved in voting and what happens at school,” Angst said. “You get tired of hearing people griping about what’s going on when they haven’t voted.”