Record turnout in MSA election

3,549 students voted in the Minnesota Student Association election, compared to 844 last year.

by Andrew Penkalski

Last weekâÄôs Minnesota Student Association election saw a voter turnout of 14.28 percent, a significant rise from last yearâÄôs voter turnout of 3.26 percent. This yearâÄôs 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. âÄúUntil this year, we havenâÄôt had enough candidates to do so, as IRV requires three or more candidates be on the ballot,âÄù All Campus Elections Commission Adviser Ed Kim said. MSAâÄôs decision to eventually implement the IRV is based on the idea that the winner must achieve a âÄútrue majorityâÄù 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. âÄúI was angry with whatâÄôs going on,âÄù Shook supporter Dan Garon said, âÄúand I saw an opportunity to change campus in a powerful way.âÄù 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. âÄúThey encouraged the candidates themselves to promote and campaign as much as possible,âÄù Kim said, âÄúsince it is ultimately the candidates who students will be voting for.âÄù 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. âÄúIn years past, there have only been two or one candidates,âÄù vice-presidential candidate Paul Buchel said. âÄúI think this year we were able to get in the faces of students a bit more.âÄù 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. âÄúI think any time you mention tuition, students listen a bit more intently,âÄù 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 yearâÄôs election.