Freshmen turned out in record numbers yesterday to elect their seven new Tufts Community Union (TCU) senators.
Joel Greenberg, Aaron Bartel, Katharina de Klerk, Danielle Cotter, Elliot McCarthy, Manuel Guzman and Jimmy Zuniga emerged victorious out of a 20-candiate field in a contest marked by 70.3 percent voter participation.
“In my experience, it is a record,” Elections Comm-ission (ECOM) Chair Anjali Nirmalan said of the percentage. “I have never seen [it] this high.”
TCU President Duncan Pickard said he is happy with the new additions to the body. “I honestly couldn’t be more excited and more optimistic,” he said. “This is a great freshman class and I can’t wait to get started.”
This year’s participation rate for freshman Senate elections compares to 44 percent in 2006 and 62 percent in 2007. Nirmalan, a senior, attributed the increase to a smooth online voting process and the use of online campaigning. Candidates have only been allowed to advertise their campaigns online in recent years, and Nirmalan said that this phenomenon has had a gradual impact.
“These are advances we’ve made in the last couple years, … but I think we’re starting to see their effects more and more,” she said.
According to Nirmalan, the spike this year corresponds with increased efforts by ECOM to provide candidates with guidelines about how to spread their messages via the Internet. She said that until this elections cycle, ECOM had been adapting to the new process and had not been able to play a strong advisory role in field of online advertising.
“I think that when we first legalized it, we were still unfamiliar with what we were doing,” she said. “I think that more guidelines actually tend to inspire candidates more.”
Voting was open for 24 hours on Wed-nesday. Nirmalan said that the peak voting time came just after midnight Wednesday morning. Based on the results of a survey question displayed to students after they submitted their ballots, she said that a plurality of voters heard about the contest through one of the candidates. An e-mail sent to all the freshmen and advertising on TuftsLife.com also brought a significant number of participants to the polls.
Pickard said that he is looking forward to working with the Senate’s new members and that the ideas they put forth during Monday’s forum in Hotung Café for freshman hopefuls piqued his interest.
“I was really impressed … with everyone’s criticisms and thoughtful outlook on Tufts,” he said. “I think that freshmen always bring a unique outlook and a lot of enthusiasm that really [are] a force on Senate.”