Only one independent candidate won his seat after Impact Party took the rest of the Student Senate seats Wednesday night.
Zachariah Chou stood in shock as UF Student Government Supervisor of Elections Eric Hobbs announced Chou won Infinity Hall’s seat. The 2016 Fall Student Government results were announced on the Reitz Union Breezeway at 10 p.m.
A total of 7,393 students voted, with 5,032 ballots cast Tuesday and 2,361 ballots cast Wednesday, Hobbs said. Last Fall’s election saw 10,229 total students vote.
Impact took the other 49 seats, 45 of which were guaranteed before the night began, as many candidates ran unopposed. The last time a party ran unopposed by another party was Fall 2014, according to Alligator archives. During Fall elections, 50 senators are elected to represent their residence halls or one of five off-campus districts.
After Chou’s name was called, he smiled as his friend Peter Nguyenho, 19, ran up to hug him and others came to congratulate him.
“After standing outside of Infinity Hall for 48 hours, it was all worth it,” Chou, an 18-year-old UF political science and journalism freshman, said.
Chou said he ran a one-man, zero-dollar campaign. The one time he couldn’t campaign for himself was during an exam, and his roommate, Adam Turner, 18, filled in for him by standing outside Infinity from 8 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. Wednesday.
When Hobbs announced the first Impact win, party members jumped, cheered and hugged one another.
Impact Party President Janae Moodie said Chou would be as much a part of the Senate as the Impact candidates.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re an independent candidate,” she said. “No matter what, we’re always going to advocate for everyone.”
Chou’s Impact Party opponent, Kelly Hooper, declined to comment as she wiped away tears.
Emily Dunson, Impact, won Beaty Towers with 50.59 percent of the vote, narrowly defeating independent candidate Jeremy O’Brien Murillo, who earned 48.82 percent of the vote.
Impact took all District seats, including District D, the only district in which an independent, Livia Ledbetter, was running.
Ledbetter said she was disappointed to lose but excited for Chou.
“I’m excited to see what he does,” she said. “I just hope Impact sticks to their word and tries to be cooperative.”
Chou won Infinity Hall despite some Infinity residents receiving District A ballots Tuesday. Hobbs wrote in an email that no students notified him of issues with the Infinity ballots Wednesday.
Chou said he planned to deliver everything promised on his platform and more, including some of his opponent’s ideas. He said he isn’t worried about being one of the few independent senators and that he has made friends with some Impact senators.
“I believe by working together we can accomplish everything both parties want,” he said.
Editor’s note: Zachariah Chou formerly worked as a paid photographer for the Alligator.