AS Campus Election Results Show Low Voter Turnouts, But High Hopes

Photo Courtesy of AS of UCSB

Carolyn French

National Beat Reporter

Voting for UCSB’s Associated Student (AS) elections concluded on Thursday, April 22, and the results are in: Five executive positions and 26 legislative positions were filled. Additionally, a list of 33 reaffirmations and five new financial measures were voted on with a 5,122 undergraduate student turnout for the online election.

Undergraduate students showed a 24.16 percent voter turnout while graduate students showed a 24.78 percent turnout, surpassing the 20 percent voter threshold needed to validate the results. The undergraduate turnout showed a 4.68 percent drop from 2019’s election, marking it as the lowest voter turnout in the past six years. 

Storke Party member Avital Rutenburg, a newly-elected collegiate senator for the College of Letters & Science, said that voting declines in the past two years have been caused by off-campus learning due to Coronavirus.

“I think a lot of the freshmen feel very removed from UCSB,” Rutenburg said. “They have no idea who I am, and they don’t know what the campus looks like let alone what campus politics are.”

Voting capacity breached 20 percent only around two hours before voting concluded, according to Rutenburg. Despite a low voter turnout, the decisions were finalized.

Yuval Cohen, a third-year running as a representative of the Storke Party, was voted in as AS President. Cohen presented a breath of general and academic goals throughout her campaign, including expanding the AS COVID-19 Emergency Task Force Grant by reallocating more unused student funds back to students, growing the Mental Health Town Hall and mental health resources on campus, and implementing a 24-hour cafe on campus.

All vice president positions were filled by members of the Isla Vista Party, with Esmeralda Quintero-Cubillan taking external vice president of statewide affairs, Shannon Sweeney taking external vice president of local affairs, and Bee Schaefer taking over the internal vice president position.

Senator positions were more split, with 11 members of Isla Vista Party, 12 from Storke Party, and three independently running candidates taking on senator positions. For Rutenburg, choosing a party is incredibly beneficial while campaigning, but she hopes that the divisions between parties dissolve once elections conclude.

“The way I view it is that the second we step into the senator position we should just dissolve those party lines because now we’re all working together towards a common goal,” Rutenburg said. “We all have really similar values. And obviously we’re going to have different approaches and things that we prioritize, but at the end of the day we’re all representing each other too.”

AS additionally takes a part of all students’ tuitions to use for a breadth of student resources. Voting on the financial measures in this spring election allowed students to approve where their money is allocated to. All 33 of the financial measures being voted on this year were reaffirmed.

While Rutenburg encourages allocation of funds into programs such as the Multicultural Center, she believes that some of that money should have been returned to the student body. Due to the pandemic, many facilities including the Recreation Center weren’t being used to their full capacity. Rutenburg said that she assumes many students voted for the reaffirmations without reading them in depth, and may not have considered that they could have gotten some money back.

Rutenburg, along with her fellow elected officials, is optimistic about the upcoming year of on-campus learning. 

“I had a little bit of a decline when COVID hit because, like everyone, I felt kind of removed from the campus so it was hard for me to imagine making a tangible change on something that was so up in the air,” Rutenburg said. “But now that I have been wrapping my head around how we are going to be going back to an actual campus, now is the perfect opportunity to make change because everything is changing.”