Record turnout for student elections at UIC, Northwestern

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Staff Writer
  • April 21, 2009 @ 9:00 AM

Student government elections at the University of Illinois at Chicago and at Northwestern University saw record turnouts at the polls last week.

At UIC, more than 2,500 students turned out, buoyed in part by aggressive campaign by a slate calling itself Students for Better Government, says junior Joel Ebert, who ran as part of the slate.

“Students need to really realize that the most effective way they can be involved and have people working for them is through student government,” Ebert says.

The slate ran on a platform calling for increased accountability in student government, better budgeting to set aside funds for student groups, and lobbying the administration on behalf of students.

He noted that out of an undergraduate population of 16,000, the voting turnout remained low overall in the elections for Undergraduate Student Government.

Ebert will be the next student trustee to the University of Illinois Board of Trustees. Bernard Mariano, a sophomore psychology major, won the race for undergraduate president by a wide margin, while junior philosophy and history major Sean Murray got the most votes for undergraduate vice president. All three were part of the Students for Better Government slate.

One of the most closely watched items on last week’s ballot at UIC was a non-binding referendum on whether or not officers in the student government should get paid. Currently, the officers split up about $12,000 each year, Ebert said, with the president getting about $2,500 per year.

The referendum passed by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent, with the majority in favor of doing away with pay for officers. But because of voting problems on the first day the online polls were open, a fifth of the total votes cast on the referendum were counted as “None of the above,” according to preliminary results tallied by the Dean of Students.

“It’s a nonbinding referendum, so it’s just there to serve as kind of a poll question,” Mariano says. “We just wanted to see how the students would feel about it.”

Ebert, Mariano and Murray all say they will decline any compensation when they take office starting in the fall. It would be up to the student assembly to change the rules related to compensation, something that may happen anyway in the coming weeks, Mariano says.


Decisive runoff at Northwestern

After several weeks of heated campaigning, more than half of the undergraduates at Northwestern University turned out last week to elect new Associated Student Government officers, says election commissioner Paul Shrader, a senior philosophy and international studies major.

“This is by far a record-breaking year for participation in student elections,” he says.

In Wednesday’s election, Bill Pulte beat Michael McGee for president by a margin of just 33 votes out of more than 4,400. That triggered a runoff election, held Friday.

But between the initial election and the runoff, another student associated with McGee’s campaign sent an e-mail attacking Pulte that circulated among nearly all students.

“There were some pretty outrageous claims made in that e-mail, some of which were shown to be untrue,” Shrader says.

But the damage may have been done, even though McGee’s campaign was charged with an election violation, Shrader says.

In the runoff, McGee garnered 59 percent of the vote, or more than 2,500 ballots, and Pulte got just 39 percent of the votes.


Daily News Staff Writer Peter Sachs covers higher education. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 18, or peter [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.