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Swamp Party wins majority of Student Senate seats

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Posted: Thursday, October 4, 2012 1:56 am | Updated: 9:43 am, Fri Oct 5, 2012.

Students packed the Reitz Union Colonnade late Wednesday night to hear the results of the UF Student Government’s Fall 2012 Student Senate elections.

Supervisor of Elections Stephen Davis read them shortly after midnight.

The Swamp Party cheered and chanted after claiming 35 seats — the majority. The Students Party claimed 14.

“I think that we won a majority of the seats, and that’s fantastic,” said Swamp Party spokesman Daniel Landesberg.

One District D seat was split, as both Micaela Montero Dokser and Amit Gangrade received 413 votes.

The Senate will decide who wins that seat, said UF Supreme Court Justice Matt Michel.

“[This] is a remarkable achievement,” Students Party campaign manager Dave Bradshaw said.

This year, 9,197 students cast ballots, which is an increase from the 8,271 ballots cast last Fall. Spring 2012 elections had one of the highest voter turnouts ever, with 10,644 voters.

“I think elections went very well,” Davis said. “I couldn’t be happier about the turnout.”

The ballot also included two referendums, both of which voters opposed.

Referendum questions are nonbinding and are used to gauge student opinion.

About 76 percent of the 7,233 students who voted on the referendum clicked “no” when asked about renaming the Reitz Union after Virgil Hawkins.

“It’s always hard to change something that’s ingrained in our tradition,” said Ford Dwyer, Students Party president and author of the referendum. “Even if the tradition isn’t what the university says it is.”

The other referendum asked students whether they wanted UF to continue with the removal of independently owned newspaper racks from campus.

About 60 percent of the 6,939 students who voted opposed it.

“I think that’s an important result,” Bradshaw said. “I think it shows that despite what our opponents have been saying, the Alligator is an important source of news on our campus.”

UF students had two days to vote for 50 student senators.

The Students Party nominated 48 students, and the Swamp Party nominated 50.

“It’s good to see that Gators are engaged,” said Student Body President Tj Villamil.

Several students were incorrectly placed in District E, which includes all ZIP codes not in the other four districts, due to their addresses listed in the university registrar.

While voting, students were asked three times to verify their district.

If it was incorrect, they could digitally sign an affidavit and add their correct addresses.

The ZIP codes were listed on all district confirmation pages starting at noon Tuesday, Davis said.

Landesberg said he hadn’t seen the numbers as of press time and didn’t know how incorrectly registered students affected the vote.

This is the third semester using online voting and the second semester using the online system to vote based on students’ residential districts.

As of midnight Wednesday, eight elections complaints had been filed: five from the Students Party and three from the Swamp Party, said Elections Commission chairman Wes Stephens.

The Elections Commission will meet Thursday to hear them.

In addition, three complaints were already handled.

The results of the elections are not in effect until the Senate officially validates them Tuesday.

Contact Chris Alcantara at [email protected], Julia Glum at [email protected] or Samantha Shavell at [email protected].

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