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<p>Members of Vision Party look over the election results in the J. Wayne Reitz Union Student Union Reitz Student Union on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023. </p>

Members of Vision Party look over the election results in the J. Wayne Reitz Union Student Union Reitz Student Union on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2023.

Vision Party dominated the ballot in the first UF Student Government election under new redistricting

Candidates heard Fall election results Wednesday night at the Reitz Union — hugs, tears and White Claws followed.

Vision Party, which ran for the first time, gained 40 seats while Change Party won nine on-campus seats; the Graduate and Family Housing seat was left vacant. 

Pizza Party and Gator Party didn’t win any seats.

With a split Senate among Gator Party, Change Party and 40 Vision Party members, Vision Party now holds the Senate majority.

Supervisor of Elections Ethan Halle reported 4,958 students voted the second day, for a combined total of 12,166 votes.

Evan Rafanan, former Change Party Minority Party Leader during the Spring 2023 SG cycle, is a newly elected Vision Party off-campus Senator. The election marked an important milestone as Vision closes a long and fulfilling campaign season, he said.

“We are excited to embark on this journey together and we look forward to a Senate that puts students’ needs first,” Rafanan wrote. 

While excitedly awaiting results, Change Party members chanted out in a call-and-response, “Together forever … Forward change.” In response, Vision Party shouted back, “V-I-S-I-O-N, Vision Party let’s get the win.” 

Pizza Party also cheered, “Put it in the oven, take it out, a fun student government is what we’re about.”

Conor Ruffin, a 24-year-old UF political science junior and newly elected Vision Party off-campus Senator, said he’s honored to serve the student body and is looking forward to working on party initiatives.

“I’m feeling very honored to have been chosen by the people around me and very privileged to be able to now serve every student in the University of Florida,” Ruffin said.

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Margot Joly, an 18-year-old UF environmental engineering freshman, said she voted for “Whoever was on the Vision Party ballot.” It wasn’t Vision Party’s platform that earned her vote, she said, but its commitment to campaigning. 

“Honestly, I hadn’t heard of the Change Party until I was voting,” she said. “Vision Party was everywhere.”

Emotions were high for Change Party members as they cried and stepped outside the Reitz Union for encouraging speeches despite the loss.

UF Senate President Oscar Santiago Perez (Change-District D) said Student Government has always been rigged against the “non-system” party as the “system” party is dominated by Greek life

“Frustration doesn't even put it — I don't think there's any words really, for what I feel,” Santiago Perez said. 

Santiago Perez faulted the new election map for his party’s loss.

“Vision Party, whatever they want to call themselves, have gerrymandered a map successfully through the usage of the system-stacked Supreme Court,” Santiago Perez said. “A court that, quite frankly, just doesn't care about the rule of law or any sort of fairness.” 

Landon Amaba, an 18-year-old UF electrical engineering freshman, said he didn’t know much about student elections but voted for Change Party’s Honors Village candidate Isha Khan because he liked “her platform and the kinds of things she was advocating for.”

Khan won her seat with 73% of the vote.

Alexander Farmiga, a 19-year-old UF music and engineering sophomore, voted for Change for the second year in a row because its platform better represents student beliefs, he said.

“I’m not a fan of how Vision Party’s doing all the gerrymandering and how they’re blocking everything in the student government,” Farmiga said.

Pizza Party members commiserated their loss by chugging cans of White Claws outside of the Reitz Union but were hopeful about future elections.

Ben “Pizza” Belin, a 19-year-old UF marketing sophomore and president of Pizza Party, said Pizza Party is excited to run again in the Spring, noting they are a party the student body can “crust.” 

“I believe we did really good for a brand new party — it's only existed for like two weeks,” Belin said. “So I think it's really good. And I'm excited. I'm happy that I got to participate in this.”

Vivienne Serret, Megan Howard, Bailey Diem and Zoey Thomas contributed to this report.

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