Durham, NH — On March 28, the Student Senate of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) sent out an email to the student body regarding the general election results that are pending Senate approval. Sophia Spina and Alex Colella, who ran for student body president and vice president respectively, won the election, receiving 70.32% of the votes against their opponents, Sophia Litle and Samantha Rizzo. Meanwhile, the result for the University System of New Hampshire (USNH) Board Representative was one of the closest to date, with Reshma Giji winning the position over Jonathan Merheb by 1.29%.
Student Senate Election Committee Leader Igor Garcia said that although this year’s general election was done in an unconventional way compared to previous elections, the committee still managed to support the candidates during their campaigns, as well as hosting a conducive environment for the debate that took place in the Memorial Union Building (MUB). “We did a hybrid (in-person and online). We opened up for candidates and the election committee [to attend the debate in the MUB] while we invited the whole student body over Zoom,” he added.
Garcia was very pleased with the outcome of the debate. “It was a pretty good debate on both ends. Both candidates seem to be pretty knowledgeable at answering some of the hard and interesting questions,” he said. “Everyone was really prepared.”
As the leader of the election committee, Garcia stated that his the main duty was to ensure a fair election for all candidates by making sure that both parties are adhering to the rules of campaigning such as staying within the budget of $750.
Besides that, the committee also played a big role in helping the candidates by supplying them with flyers and posters for their campaign. “The way we help candidates was by printing out flyers and handing them to ResLife so that they can be posted up on halls,” added Garcia. Though, he clarified that all of the candidates receive the same number of flyers from the election committee during their campaigning period.
However, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the election process wasn’t as easy as it seemed. Garcia said that the biggest obstacle that the election committee had to overcome was maintaining the privacy of certain information. “We have to do stuff online mostly this year, so we did have to share some things online,” he commented. Aside from that, Garcia also said that it was harder for members of the Student Senate to meet in person and discuss issues relating to the election due to the reduced number of people allowed to be in a room at the MUB.
The total number of valid votes for the student body president and vice president was 1,705 while the number of valid votes for the USNH Board Representative was 1,710. According to Garcia, half of the total verified votes were completed within 24 hours of the polls being open but slowed down after. Regarding the low number of votes, Garcia replied, “I guess it was just the lack of interest from students.”
The Student Senate also sent out a few reminders to students as an initiative to promote voting. “I got a few responses from some people asking us (the Student Senate) to stop emailing them, and some replied, ‘No one cares.’” Garcia was saddened by the fact that people don’t really understand that voting for the leaders of the student body is actually important.
“As someone who’s been in the Senate for almost two years, all I can say is that we’re the official voices for students. I’ve seen a lot of petitions circling around or students who said they want to do something in order to change something but a lot of them don’t seem to realize that’s not how you’re going to get things done,” he said.
As of right now, the Student Senate is going through the process of verifying the votes and will have the finalized result by April 6. This is to ensure fairness to all of the candidates and give them a chance to report any discrepancies if present.
After the results have been finalized, the student body president-elect and vice president-elect will then move forward into the one-month transition period where they will work with the current Student Body President Nicholas Fitzgerald and Vice President Tyler Silverwood to ensure that they are prepared to lead the student body this coming fall.
Photos courtesy of UNH Student Senate Instagram.