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March 5, 2008
By Guia Del Prado
Billboards and signs attract the attention of students and faculty alike in the front lawn of the Joe Crowley Student Union.
Posters cover the boards in hallways.
It’s that time of year again.
But unlike past years, the 2008 Associated Students of University of Nevada (ASUN) elections feature new policies and has seen increased participation from candidates.
High participation for ASUN positions for the vice presidency and the presidential seats prompted the need for a primary election this year, election organizers said.
The primary elections will take place from Wednesday through Thursday, March 5-6 and the general elections will be Wednesday to Thursday, March 12-13.
Sarah Ragsdale, ASUN president, believes the high number of candidates provides voters with an array of selections.
“I’m pleased to see such a diverse pool of candidates,” Ragsdale said. “People (voters) can’t say they didn’t have any options. It’s been an excuse in the past, but you can’t say that about this group.”
Ragsdale also believes this year’s candidates are running a different kind of campaign than has been seen in the past.
“It’s more about who people identify with and less about what issues they go with,” Ragsdale said.
Nicole Nelson, chair of the commission on elections, also is surprised to have so many candidates running this year for the presidency, the vice presidency and for the Senate.
“I’m excited to see so many candidates running for president and vice president, as well as to see what will make for an almost full senate,” Nelson said.
Both Nelson and Ragsdale cite different reasons why so many students are interested in running for positions in the ASUN. Ragsdale believes that the new student union and recent tragic events near and on the campus have motivated more students to run.
“They’ve been inspired by the opening of the Joe and see big time visionary changes they want to make on campus,” Ragsdale said.
Nelson believes that the media attention the ASUN has received in the past year and the new constitution had a role to play in inspiring students to participate.
“ASUN has had a lot of press this year and I think it has encouraged people to get involved,” Nelson said. “Some people have been very motivated by the new constitution and see that they can actually make a huge impact.”
Another difference in campaign strategy marks this year’s elections. Many presidential candidates are sharing campaign advertisements.
According to Nelson, this was because of a new campaign code approved in the Senate that would allow candidates to campaign with other candidates they support.
The code originally called for presidential and vice presidential candidates to be included on the ballot as one choice but that was amended in the Senate.
While candidates may campaign together, they will still be listed individually on the ballot.
The advantages and disadvantages of this approach are still being seen. Nelson believes it may lead to a stronger team in the executive office if students are well acquainted before they enter into office.
“I think it could potentially lead to a more cohesive executive office, especially with there only being two positions this year as opposed to the four executives in past years,” Nelson said.
Nelson also believes this will increase voter participation.
“I also think there is a potential to raise voter turnout this way,” Nelson said. “A lot of people aren’t going to come out just to vote for one person, so this way if they see a sign, they feel like they have more of a reason to go to the polls.”
Ragsdale believes that the concept of running together takes away from the learning element in working with other people.
“There’s a lot of fine tuning involved,” Ragsdale said. “I would have missed out on the learning value of it if I had known Chris (Trillo, ASUN vice president).”
This new approach may also affect voters, who may be confused and think that the candidates are included on the ballot as one option.
Both Nelson and Ragsdale urge student voters to go to the polls for the primaries and the general elections.
“The University is the testing ground for good citizens,” Ragsdale said. “The University is trying to get students into the habit of voting now so they can vote later.”