Update, 11:00 p.m., March 1: Additional quotes were added from HP Concerts Chair Kyle Rubin, SG Elections Commission Chair Claudia Nunes, Unlimited campaign manager Robert Renfro and outgoing SG President Vikesh Patel. A version of this story ran in print on March 2.
Student Government election results were announced Wednesday. The victories install Unlimited as the new Student Government (SG) leaders and provide additional funding for Hurricane Productions (HP) to invite bigger artists for future concerts.
The results were announced on the Lakeside Patio after three days of OrgSync voting. Juniors Adrian Nuñez, Coleman Reardon and Emily Bajalia, the candidates from the Unlimited ticket, were voted in as the incoming SG president, vice-president and treasurer respectively.
It was an expected victory for the candidates, who ran unopposed once their only competition, independent runner Aaron King, dropped out of the race last Wednesday. Student voters did write in other candidates, but the overwhelming amount of votes went to Unlimited – 776 total votes. Reardon, Bajalia and Nuñez won more than 96 percent of the votes.
This was a victory for Nuñez, who spent four months and many long nights preparing his campaign.
“It’s really exciting, kind of overwhelming, a big mixture of emotions but all good emotions,” Nuñez said of the win.
Before the elections, it was uncertain whether the HP referendum to increase the student fee by $7 would pass. It needed at least 1,128 student votes to pass, a benchmark based off of 60 percent of last year’s voter participation. The referendum received 1,331 votes.
“We have been working our butts off for this. We’ve been pushing forward for weeks and weeks and weeks, and just to get the amount of votes needed to pass this referendum, it feels incredible,” said Jake Rubin, HP Concerts vice-chair. “This opens up new possibilities because we are able to bring bigger and better artists to campus.”
The increase in fees will give the event planning committee a bigger budget to invite more high-profile artists, such as Travis Scott, Kaskade, Foster the People, The 1975 and Walk The Moon.
“Before the referendum passed we weren’t able to afford them,” Rubin said. “Now we are able to afford the artists that FSU and UF, all the big schools, can bring to their campus. This is a huge step for UM and the concert committee.”
The referendum will go into effect in fall 2018. Until then, Rubin vowed that HP Concerts would continue to do its best.
“We will have a year of going with what we have been dealing with – a smaller budget, a smaller artist,” he said. “But come 2018, we will be able to bring bigger and better artists.”
Low voter turnout has been a recurring problem in elections over the years. In the 2016 election, fewer than 1,800 votes — less than 20 percent of the school’s undergraduate enrollment — voted. And that was an election with three tickets running.
An outlier in that pattern was in 2015, when 2,934 votes were cast.
Claudia Nunes, the SG elections commissioner chair, said voter turnout has always been low, yet there is no distinct reason why students don’t vote. She said the only way to ensure increased voter turnout was strong campaigning.
“Everyone knew Unlimited was going to win since they were the only ticket, yet they still got a lot of people to vote for them, which was great,” Nunes said. “That was due to their strong campaigning. HP did a great job in that. Using social media and word-of-mouth, they managed to get a lot.”
Even though Unlimited went unopposed, the candidates said they did not take it for granted. They didn’t change any of their campaigning strategies and marketed themselves as though there were other tickets running. This meant Unlimited spent every campaigning day going to different student and Greek organizations to showcase their platform.
“Even if we ran unopposed or against four tickets, we would still do the same: handing out palm cards, making t-shirts,” Nuñez said. “And honestly, it made it more difficult because people lost interest in voting since there was only one ticket.”
Senior Robert Renfro, Unlimited’s campaign manager and former SG treasurer in the 2015-16 academic year, said at first he did not want to tell the candidates that they were running unopposed to keep them motivated to do their best.
“I didn’t really tell them at first. It was one of my tactics as a campaign manager,” Renfro said. “I didn’t want them to get into a mindset that they didn’t need to try. But, of course, once I told them, they still had the mindset to go out there and gain votes and also increase voter turnout.”
Some of Renfro’s duties included keeping Nuñez, Reardon and Bajalia active throughout the campaign and telling them from start to be themselves in order to attract students to vote.
“Ever since meeting them in my sophomore year, I always encouraged them to chase their passions and their dream,” Renfro said. “Working with them on this campaign, I saw what they hoped to accomplish from this process and what UM meant to them.”
The members of Unlimited will be sworn into their respective positions April 20. The current SG president, senior Vikesh Patel, said passing the mantle down is bittersweet but he is excited for the three, whom he has known “since they stepped on campus.”
“I think they will do a great job representing the students,” Patel said. “Enjoy the position, it’s a unique experience, and make the best out of it.”
The other result announced was students elected as SG senators. There were nine candidates, but only six were voted in.
Hayden Boilini was elected as the College of Arts and Sciences senator; David Tzeel was elected as the College of Business Administration senator; Jessica Vilches, Abdiel Caballero, and Liztiffany Couceiro were elected as the commuter senators. Charles Rilli was elected as the transfer student senator.