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Election turnout drops at Loyola

Fasullo and Chavez were elected to SGLC's top seats despite a turnout of less than one third of the student body. Michael Fasullo and Marina Chavez for Student Government // Facebook

A newly elected Student Government of Loyola Chicago (SGLC) started its term this week, and as new student leaders are appointed to be in the cabinet, election results show a drop in voter turnout.

Junior Michael Fasullo and sophomore Mariana Chavez won the majority of the student vote and were elected SGLC president and vice president for the new term.

Fasullo and Chavez defeated Aamir Khadri and Amanda Koenig in the two-day election that took place March 25-26.

But out of the 10,000 undergraduate students eligible to vote, only 2,716 actually completed a ballot, according to Kelsey Cheng, SGLC’s chief communications officer.

This means that only 27 percent of the student body voted in the elections, a 2-percent-point drop from last year’s election, in which junior Flavio Bravo was elected president.

The turnout drop happened despite incentives for voters, including discounts at the Loyola-affiliated Felice’s Pizza and Ireland’s.

After being elected, Fasullo said it is crucial that students vote both in student and government elections.

“One person’s vote might not change the world, but if everyone embraced that attitude, social change would not occur,” he said. “When added up, voting changes the course of history.”

But many students felt like they did not know enough about the candidates to cast a vote. Even others said they forgot to submit the electronic ballot, sent to students via email.

That was the case for Colleen Laughlin, a sophomore Ad/PR major.

“I got the email in class [and] meant to vote when I got out of class but then forgot,” said Laughlin. “Also, I didn’t know much [and] I didn’t want to vote just for the sake of voting.”

Solomon Collins, a freshman journalism and international studies double major, said he too forgot, but might not have if the election was advertised differently.

“Maybe if they set up shop in Damen [Student Center] and passed out information about the candidates I would have remembered,” said Collins. “But I don’t feel like [student government officials] do much for me anyways.”

Low participation has been a consistent trend at Loyola, with turnout hovering around 25 percent in the last few years.

Last year’s election saw 2,710 out of 9,873 students casting their votes. This means only 29 percent of the student body voted in the election. In the 2013-2014 election, which resulted in Pedro Guerrero’s election as president, only 24 percent of students participated –– less than 3,000 students.

This year’s elections also resulted in the passing of two referenda, one pledging student financial support for the Magis Scholarship and another one asking the university to bring Metropolis coffee back to university cafés.

The Magis Scholarship referendum aimed at getting student support for a $5 yearly fee to be added to the student development fee. This money will fund scholarships for undocumented students.

As for Metropolis, the local coffee producer used to be the coffee purveyor for Loyola, at least until 2011, when Aramark, Loyola’s food vendor, changed to Starbucks coffee.

Loyola’s internal elections are not the only ones that have taken place in Chicago in the past few months. The city’s municipal elections took place in February and resulted in a mayoral runoff between incumbent Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia. Out of the city’s 50 wards, candidates in 19 of them are also facing a runoff April 7.

Kevin Rees, a freshman Ad/PR major, said he participated in both SGLC’s and Chicago’s election.

Despite casting his vote in February, Rees said he’s still hesitant on whether or not he will participate in the runoff. His reason is similar to that of the students who didn’t vote at Loyola.

“I just don’t feel like I have enough information to make an informed decision,” said Rees.

But lack of information is not the only factor keeping voters away from polling stations.

For students coming from other states, voting in Illinois is

Laughlin, who is from Connecticut, said did not vote in the earlier mayoral election because she is not registered to vote in Illinois. It is not uncommon for out-of-state students to not contribute to city or state wide elections.

“I didn’t think I was allowed to be registered here since it’s not a permanent residence,” said Laughlin.

As of July 1, 2014 out-of-state college students residing in Illinois for 30 days –– and who have a college ID –– are able to register to vote in the state.

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