Voter turnout rises 9 percent in class council, DSG VP elections

In an election with significantly higher voter turnout than last year's, undergraduates selected next year's class council presidents and vice presidents and Duke Student Government committee vice presidents and senators when polls closed Wednesday at noon.

A total of 2,083 students—32 percent of the student body—voted in the election, a 9 percent increase from last year's voter turnout but less than the 36 percent voter turnout for the March 2 elections for president, executive vice president, and Student Organization Funding Committee chair. For the vice president of academic affairs and vice president of services races, instant runoff voting—in which candidates are ranked and those with the fewest votes are eliminated so that those votes can be reallocated to remaining candidates based on how candidates are ranked—had to be used because no candidate had a clear majority. 

In the vice president of academic affairs race, freshman Kushal Kadakia received 49.4 percent of the vote initially, but freshman Sean Bissell won the instant runoff with 50.5 percent of the vote, noted Attorney General Annie Adair, a junior. Freshman Will Hardee was elected vice president of services after an instant runoff vote.

President-elect Tara Bansal, a junior, noted she was pleased with the higher turnout.

“I think the reason that we saw a considerable increase this year is because we had a lot more contested races and a lot more candidates running, so clearly there was a little more publicity and definitely more attention to the races this year,” Bansal said. “[Executive Vice President-elect Ilana Weisman] and I are talking about ways to coalesce the platforms of the candidates next year to make it easier for students to understand how the candidates are different and who to vote for, so that they are the most educated.”

After a 19 percent voter turnout in the freshman election last fall, DSG Senate changed voting rules so that voters no longer had to rank all candidates. However, for the first hour of voting Tuesday, students were still required to rank all candidates.

“The voting system had been done and redone and edited so many times as we were trying to clarify the bylaws and what they required-that we didn't realize we hadn't turned off the requirement of ranking in order to submit the vote,” Adair wrote in an email. “No votes were lost or not properly counted.”

In addition to Bissell and Hardee, the other elected committee vice presidents were junior Tanner Lockhead for Durham and regional affairs, sophomore Riyanka Ganguly for equity and outreach, junior Michael Norwalk for facilities, the environment and the arts, junior Basil Seif for residential life, and freshman Kayla Thompson for social culture.

Rising seniors elected Kavita Jain class president and Krista Niemeier class vice president. In addition, they elected Kavita Jain senator for academic affairs, Jessica Van Meir senators for equity and outreach and John Turanchik senator for facility, environment and the arts.

Rising juniors elected Ozi Boms class president and Patricia Pinckombe class vice president. They also elected Teddy Bartlett senators for academic affairs, Kevin Mutchnick senator for equity and outreach, Nikita Gawande senator for facilities, environment and the arts, and Sean Gilbert senator for social culture.

All of the races for the rising sophomore class had to go into instant runoff voting, except for the races for residential life and facilities, environment and the arts, in which no one ran. Rising sophomores elected Madden Osei class president and Paulos Muruts vice president. They also elected Josh Curtis and Luke Farrell senators for academic affairs, Brian Buhr and Jackson Dellinger senators for Durham and regional affairs, Amulya Vadapalli senator for residential life, Monika Dharia and Kristina Smith senators for services, Chaya Bhat and Steven Hassey senators for equity and outreach and Noah Eckberg senator for social culture.

Rising sophomores had the highest level of participation in class officer and senator elections, with 833 student votes compared to 524 rising junior and 481 rising senior votes. 

Referendum results from the election mean that Duke's yearbook, the Chanticleer, will continue to be free for seniors, with funding coming from the student activities fee. Additionally, the SOFC chair will now be appointed by the committee, rather than elected by the student body, and the Senate will be allowed to choose its president pro-tempore during the last meeting of the session, as opposed to the beginning of the next session.

Update: This article was updated at 12:02 a.m. Thursday to include the referendum results.

Likhitha Butchireddygari

Follow Likhitha on Twitter

Class of 2019

Editor-in-chief 2017-18, 

Local and national news department head 2016-17

Born in Hyderabad, India, Likhitha Butchireddygari moved to Baltimore at a young age. She is pursuing a Program II major entitled "Digital Democracy and Data" about the future of the American democracy.


Share and discuss “Voter turnout rises 9 percent in class council, DSG VP elections” on social media.