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Sohn to serve as first female Young Trustee since 2004

After 3,248 undergraduates cast their votes, senior Michelle Sohn was elected Young Trustee in the second-ever student-wide election Tuesday night.

The election was determined in an instant runoff, with Sohn defeating senior Matt Davis by 92 votes, 1,629 to 1,537. The election saw the largest voter turnout in recent history, as 49.94percent of students cast ballots.

“I feel so incredibly blessed... I think that’s the only way to describe it,” Sohn, former member of The Chronicle’s independent editorial board, said Tuesday night. “Blessed and honored.”

Students also approved a referendum on the Young Trustee ballot to merge Duke Student Government and Campus Council. The referendum passed with 2,951 votes—or 90.1 percent of all voters.

Polls opened Tuesday at 7 a.m. and closed at 10 p.m., although the results were not announced until two hours after the polls closed, per DSG bylaws.

None of the three finalists—Davis, Getson or Sohn—received a majority Tuesday night, with Davis earning 1,371 votes, senior Ben Getson 358 and Sohn 1,449 before the runoff.

Sohn is the third woman in the past decade to become a Young Trustee, after Katie Laidlaw, Trinity ’04, and Sara Elrod, Trinity ’02.

“I am very satisfied with the 49.94 percent voter turnout and think it is indicative of the great campaign efforts put forth by the finalists,” said DSG Attorney General Ryan Clark, a junior. “The voter turnout has been the highest DSG has seen in at least four years.”

In the campaign process, two violations were reported. Monday, Getson was accused of distributing an unsolicited flyer. The DSG Board of Elections decided to dock 0.5 votes from Getson, although no votes were subtracted in the election process because the system rounds down the total number of ballots cast. Tuesday, a student sent an e-mail to about 400 students with a link to a YouTube video promoting Davis, who is also the undergraduate student representative on the Duke Student Publishing Company’s Board of Directors, which publishes The Chronicle. The Board of Elections subtracted two votes from Davis’ total, which did not affect the overall election.

Additionally, an injunction was filed yesterday regarding the DSG-Campus Council merger referendum. Although students were required to vote on the merger, the Board of Elections ruled the mandatory vote constitutional. Clark said the Board of Elections reviewed the bylaws and balloting procedures and did not find that the merger’s voting process violated policy.

“There were some hiccups on the way... but I felt that with the circumstances given, it was the fairest election it could possibly have been and that’s thanks to a lot of people who made the whole process go smoothly,” Sohn said.

Several students wrote in a variety of candidates who did not formally campaign—including men’s basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski, Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta and Karen Owen, Trinity ’10. Students wrote in a total of 212 candidates, Clark said.

Senior Brooke Kingsland, former write-in candidate, stopped campaigning and resigned as DSG executive secretary Sunday afternoon after she was prohibited from participating in last Thursday’s formal debate. The Board of Elections does not permit write-in candidates to partake in formal debates because the bylaws do not explicitly permit it. Kingsland still received 56 votes, Clark said.

In the course of the election, Sohn received seven formal endorsements, Davis received three and Getson secured one. Getson declined to comment on the election Tuesday.

“All of the people supporting me made a really good push,” Davis said Tuesday night. “Obviously I was disappointed we couldn’t win, but I’m really happy with the effort we put behind it.”

As Young Trustee, Sohn said she hopes to achieve three major goals: see that Duke’s international strategy reflects University policy in Durham, ensure the transition to the house model occurs smoothly and analyze results of the socioeconomic diversity report and update to the 2003 Women’s Initiative.

As the newest Young Trustee, Sohn will serve on the Board of Trustees for three years, one year as a nonvoting member and the final two as a voting member. Sohn will attend her first meeting in September. Until last year, the undergraduate Young Trustee was selected through a joint process of DSG and the InterCommunity Council.

This article has been corrected to reflect that senior Brooke Kingsland resigned as DSG executive secretary and withdrew her write-in campaign for Young Trustee Sunday afternoon rather than Monday evening. The Chronicle regrets the error.

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