Turnout low for SGA elections

SGA Senate The Student Government Association Senate unanimously approved its first senator for the semester at Sunday’s meeting.

Courtesy of NIU Student Government Association

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Dan Doren, Senior Reporter

The SGA spring elections saw a decrease in voter turnout compared to last year, with COVID-19 likely playing a role.

Elections took place 9 a.m. March 24 to 6 p.m. March 25 online via HuskieLink, in which students cast their votes for the president, vice president, treasurer and student trustee, as well as senators for all five districts.

A total of 259 students participated in this year’s elections, about 150 short of last year’s mark, according to Election Commissioner Devlin Collins.

Collins said 259 was “a good number considering the circumstances,” as the COVID-19 outbreak left the SGA no choice but to abandon the outreach initiative it had designed to increase voter participation.

“The sudden COVID-19 crisis led to the cancellation of election events and took away the face-to-face marketing strategy we were planning to use to further reach students that otherwise would not have known about the elections,” he said.

Collins also suspects the abrupt shift to online courses and the one-week extension of spring break contributed to the lack of participation.

“I’m sure these factors played a role in the number of students who were even aware the elections were still going on,” he said.

Speaker of the Senate Ian Pearson praised the elections team for the smooth transition to entirely virtual elections.

“We would typically have candidates’ forums, on-campus campaigning and, of course, physical polling stations to remind students to vote,” Pearson said. “Despite this, several hundred Huskies tuned into the election and cast their ballots.”

Pearson said he’s optimistic about SGA elections moving forward.

“I think the lessons learned from our last few elections and this team’s ideas for the future leave us well-positioned for successful elections next year,” he said.

Chief of Staff Antonio Johnson won the SGA presidency, the results show. He will take over from current President Naomi Bolden May 15, as specified in the SGA Constitution.

Director of Mass Transit Kyle Jacobson will be vice president, and Director of Athletics and Recreation Aidan Shields will be student trustee for the Board of Trustees. Devohn Hall has retained his position as treasurer.

Pearson said he hopes next year’s leadership staff will “continue to build on the positive tone we set this year.”

Additionally, 15 Senate seats have been filled as a result of the elections, with five new members joining next year.

The Senate amended Article VI, Section 2 of the Constitution Feb. 9 to read that upwards of 25 seats, out of 30, may be up for election in the spring.