In low turnout election, Joseph captures SA presidency

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MATT LOWRIE / THE FLAT HAT

Following an unprecedented campaign season where the COVID-19 outbreak forced campaigning into Zoom forums and social media posts, the College of William and Mary’s Student Assembly held its 328th elections Thursday, April 2. In the uncontested race for SA President, students elected Senate Chair Anthony Joseph ‘21 and Sen. Kyle Vasquez ‘21 despite low turnout relative to previous SA elections. Down ballot, Senate contests for the classes of 2021 and 2022 also showed low voter turnout compared to last year’s election cycle. 

Of the 1,654 students who cast ballots in the SA presidential election, 1,465 voted for Joseph and Vasquez with 189 students abstaining from the vote. According to data provided each election cycle by SA’s Election Commission, this year’s presidential contest recorded the lowest number of total votes in the past five SA presidential elections.

Before capturing 88.57 percent of the presidential vote, the pair based their campaign on 14 major campaign points, including diversity and inclusion, mental health and COVID-19 emergency relief. This year’s presidential race recorded declined voter turnout, especially compared to last year’s contested election between outgoing SA President Kelsey Vita ‘20 and Dave DeMarco ‘20, when 3,672 students participated.

Joseph, who is now the second candidate in SA history to win the presidency through an unopposed election, said he was honored to lead the College through the difficult months to come.

“I’m humbled and incredibly thankful for the guidance, support, and love from everyone who voted today for Kyle and I,” Joseph said in a written statement. “Thank you so much for electing us Student Body President and Vice-President and trusting us in such a difficult time. Our community will rise out of this stronger than ever and we will work fiercely to strengthen the tie that hold us together — our love of old. Let’s break new barriers and pave forward, together.”

While SA’s presidential election was uncontested this cycle, other SA elections featured clashes between newcomers and incumbents. The class of 2023 was the most contested race of the campaign season, with nine candidates running to fill four Senate seats and three students vying for class of 2023 president. 

Class of 2021

Class of 2021 President Aria Austin ’21 was re-elected for the 2020-21 academic year, defeating opponent Helen Tariku ’21 by a margin of 36 votes. Out of the 464 students who voted, Austin received 53.87 percent of the vote while Tariku received 46.12 percent of the vote. 

The class of 2021’s presidential contest was a rematch of last year’s election, when Austin narrowly beat Tariku by 12 votes. While this year’s contest featured the same two candidates, voter turnout dropped precipitously, with 930 students casting ballots in the class’s presidential race in 2019 compared to about half that number this year. 

Patrick Salsburg ’21 was re-elected as a senator with 50.62 percent of the vote, and newcomer Jane Geiger ’21 was elected with 49.37 percent of the vote. 

For the second year in a row, SA will have to fill open senatorial seats for the class of 2021 in the fall semester. The class of 2020 was forced under SA code to hold a special election to fill its vacant seats in fall 2019, and the class of 2021 will face a similar fate in September by holding a special election to fill its remaining two Senate seats. 

Class of 2022

Class of 2022 President Suhas Suddala ’22 was re-elected for a third term after running for his position unopposed. Suddala received 336 out of the 351 votes cast, or 95.72 percent of the vote, with the remaining 15 votes cast as no answer. 

Sens. Vicky Morales ’22, Jahnavi Prabhala ’22 and Meghana Boojala ’22 were also re-elected to their positions for a third term, receiving 306 votes (25.75 percent), 302 (25.42 percent), and 301 (25.33 percent) votes respectively. Rory Fedorochko ’22 was also elected as a newcomer with 279 votes or 23.48 percent.

In last year’s class of 2022 presidential election, 934 students cast their vote, while only 351 students voted this year. 

Class of 2023 

In the most competitive race of the campaign season, Class of 2023 President Conor Sokolowsky ’23 was re-elected as Class of 2023 President, defeating challengers Kieran Mangla ’23 and Justin Oei ’23 by a margin of 297 and 354 votes respectively. Of the 531 votes cast, Sokolowsky won 74.19 percent of the vote, while Mangla received 18.26 percent of the vote and Oei earned 7.53 percent.

SA newcomer Owen Williams received the highest percentage of votes in the race to fill the class’s four senatorial seats, earning 15.25 percent of the vote, or 282 votes. In addition to Williams, incumbent Sens. Eugene Lee ’23, Maheen Saeed ’23 and Madison Hubbard ’23 were all re-elected.

Lee received the second highest percentage of the vote at 12.55 percent, coming second to Williams by a margin of 50 votes. Saeed received 221 votes or 11.95 percent of the vote, and Hubbard received 11.3 percent or 209 votes.

Riya Chhabra ’23 failed to secure a seat by a slim margin of one vote, earning 11.25 percent of the vote. Sen. Abby Varricchio ’23 lost her bid for re-election by receiving only 203 votes, or 10.98 percent, losing to Hubbard by a small margin of six votes. Mikayla Fulcher ’23, Charles Pritz ’23 and Will McCleery ’23 also did not win seats, with Fulcher receiving 10.82 percent, Pritz winning 8.82 percent and McCleery earning 7.03 percent of the vote respectively.