Campus Beat Reporter
In a sea of ocean blue shirts, Campus United candidates and supporters erupted in cheers Thursday night after sweeping all four partisan executive positions for the 2017 Associated Students Elections.
Campus United presidential candidate and third year transfer political science major Hieu Le won with 3,658 votes, defeating the Isla Vista Party candidate Nawar Nemeh, who garnered 2,517 votes, and official write-in candidate Navpreet Khabra.
“Again, this wasn’t my own doing,” said Le, who claimed to be the first Asian elected to the AS presidency at UCSB. “This was the work of the entire party. They are really the backbone of the entire operation, make no mistake about that.”
The remaining executive offices were secured by CU candidates Jasmine Sandhu, elected as Internal Vice President; Batsheva Stoll, elected as External Vice President of Local Affairs; and Kristin Hsu, elected as External Vice President of Student Affairs. Third year economics major and independent candidate Jack Tannenbaum ran without opposition and was elected as Student Advocate General, a historically nonpartisan position.
Tears were shed by Isla Vista Party candidates and supporters in response to the party’s executive losses, but notable victories were celebrated as the party, founded just this year, made strides in the legislative branch, winning nine out of 25 AS senate seats. Most notable was the overwhelming majority of votes – 1,907 – cast in favor of Grecia Martinez for College of Letters and Science Senator in the first round of tabulation. Using the single transferrable vote system, Martinez passed the “droop” threshold of 1099 – the number that guaranteed an automatic win for the first round – by over 800 votes.
“Take advantage of the moments that you have right now. Let’s use this platform, this campus, this moment as an opportunity to work together collectively.”
“I’m really proud of the really clean campaign we ran this year,” said Nemeh before the elections. Nemeh and other members of the Isla Vista Party have not responded to The Bottom Line’s requests for comment following the elections.
In a rare show of solidarity, prior to the election results announcement both parties spent the better part of an hour dancing off the pre-election announcement anxieties as music blared and dance circles formed.
AS Assistant Director for Community Affairs, Student Engagement, and Advocacy Aaron Jones spoke to candidates prior to the election results reveal, placing emphasis on winning and losing with grace, as well as the importance of the work that begins at election season’s close.
“Win or lose, whether you’re running or not, there is much work to be done,” said Aaron Jones who has worked with the association for 13 years. “Take advantage of the moments that you have right now. Let’s use this platform, this campus, this moment as an opportunity to work together collectively.”
Huddled with their respective parties and clad in matching t-shirts, students watched as results were displayed on two screens in the University Center HUB, with moving bars showing the number of votes accumulated by each candidate in real time. All fees on the ballot for the 2017-2018 academic year were reaffirmed, and the AS Legal Resource Center fee increase of $0.97 as well as the Community Financial Fund fee increase of $2.37 both passed.
Of the two constitutional amendments on the ballot, only one – the external fee bill – failed, with 64 percent of votes in favor and 36 percent of votes against. The bill sought to keep student fees paid to external organizations at the same level paid by students at fellow UC campuses. UCSA and USSA, two campus lobbying groups, are the only external organizations that would potentially have been affected by the bill.
The reaffirmation bill, which passed with 71 percent of votes in favor, was met with disappointment by several A.S. entity chairs on campus. Daniel Renteria, co-chair of the Isla Vista Tenants Union, spearheaded the campaign against the bill. He expressed concern that the history of Associated Students and the original 50 percent plus 1 threshold was not fully understood by the student body.
“We already had the structures in place, and you look back at our history and a lot of things weren’t being funded,” said Renteria, “and a lot of things weren’t being provided for students at a time when tuition was rising. There was less state funding and less funding from UC Regents, and so because of that kind of history, it’s like we’re going right back down that path.”
Under the new amendment, all new lock-ins (existing fees) up for reaffirmation beginning in Spring 2017 will require a 50 percent plus one approval threshold. Previously, fees could only be cancelled with a 60 percent vote in opposition to the fee’s continuation. For new fees put on the ballot by senate, the threshold of approval from the student body is now increased from 60 percent to 66.667 percent. New fees put on the ballot by petition still hold the 50 percent plus one voter approval threshold.
Renteria hopes to introduce a bill on next year’s ballot that will reinstate the original 50 percent plus one threshold.
Looking beyond Thursday night’s mix of tears and festivities, Renteria was not the only one looking ahead to the reality of next year’s responsibilities. IVP elect Sandhu, over the celebratory cheers of fellow party winners, reflected on her goals for next year, taking time to address, especially in light of Thursday’s results, the special difficulty of presiding over a senate whose members are entering with opposing parties and platforms.
“I have no worries because before Senate starts I’m going to ensure that my senators are able to engage in civil discourse with one another,” said Sandhu. “They can talk to each other aside from their differences. Parties don’t exist when we’re in Senate. When we’re in Senate, your job is to represent your constituents. I’m going to ensure that that happens.”
Executives and senators will be sworn in before the end of spring quarter. A forum will be held by elections board in the coming weeks so that students may give input on changes to be made to the elections process for next year.