Avula by 38
Brett and Lakshmi win undergrad vote but lose record turnout nail biter

By Andrea Fuller, Sam Bhagwat and James Hohmann
Published April 16th 2007 in Stanford Daily
In one of the closest elections in memory and with the highest voter turnout in ASSU history, Hershey Avula ‘08 and Mondaire Jones ‘09 were chosen as the new ASSU executives over their top rivals Brett Hammon ‘08 and Lakshmi Karra ‘08 by a margin of a mere 38 votes.

Jones, Avula’s vice presidential candidate, could hardly contain himself when Elections Commissioner Bernard Fraga ‘08 announced the results to the approximately 200 people packed in the CoHo Friday afternoon.

In the screaming-and-yelling commotion, Avula was nearly knocked to the ground.

“I went up to give [Jones] a hug and he jumped up and shouldered me in the face,” Avula joked just after the results were announced, gripping his jaw in pain but trying to crack a smile. “I think it may be broken, but we’re very happy.”

Hammon left shortly after the votes were announced but expressed his disappointment to The Daily over the phone, blaming graduate students for pushing the Avula/Jones vote above that of his slate. Hammon and Karra received 69 more undergraduate first choice votes than did Avula and Jones, but their slate got 221 fewer first round graduate votes.

The ASSU used choice voting, which allows voters to rank candidates from first to last. Each round, the slate which received the fewest votes was eliminated and each vote cast for the losing candidate was given to the voters’ next-ranked choice.

For example, in the first round, the Warm Weather Party garnered 440 votes. After the Chappie slate, Submit, was removed in the first round and the Smith and Ladewig ticket was thrown out in the second round, the slate’s vote total grew to 517, or 14 percent.

The race came down to Avula/Jones and Brett and Lakshmi. Avula and Jones got 2,030 votes, and Hammon and Karra received 1,992.

“We ran a very good campaign,” Hammon said. “I’m very proud of what Lakshmi and I have done. I think we made a big statement at least about what kind of new attitudes to bring to the ASSU.”

“I’m very proud of our team in terms of people that don’t usually get involved in ASSU stuff,” he added. “They came out in full force because they shared Lakshmi and my passion. Our team may not have been as serious but they were definitely funner [sic].”

Avula and Jones acknowledged that they were anxious before the announcement.

“We weren’t sure [who was going to win],” Jones said. “It seemed like the odds were against us.”

The slate told The Daily it feared that the student body would not understand its message.

“We knew we were the best candidates,” Jones said, “but it was not knowing whether the students thought that.”

Avula and Jones were enthusiastic about the high voter turnout.

“Thank you for coming out in such high numbers,” Avula said. “Thank you, graduate students, for making your voice heard. This year’s executive will take a large role in graduate advocacy.”

Fraga was also pleased with the record number of ballots cast. The Graduate Student Council voter turnout was also up 10 percent over last year.

“In the past, numbers have been below 10 percent grad turnout,” Fraga said, “so this is amazing.”

Junior and senior turnout was substantially higher than last year’s, perhaps because of strong discontent with the leadership in the Office of Student Activities. Sophomore turnout was slightly lower than last year’s, likely due to the fact that the winning slate for junior class presidents was unopposed.

“Turnout was extremely high, higher than in national elections,” Fraga said. “It’s very clear voters were mobilized by the candidates and the issues. Even though the votes were very close, I think the high turnout speaks for itself.”

Before the results were announced, Hammon was jovial about the campaigning process.

“There were some glitches along the way,” he wrote in an email to The Daily earlier this week. “I sent out a couple emails last week that said ‘Come by my room in Burbank if you want one of my lies or tropical gum!’ Though I would be happy to spew lies, people were pleasantly surprised when I gave them leis instead at my room.”

Karra said she thinks her team did the best it could.

“It was incredibly close and I don’t think that Brett and I could have done anything better,” she said. “I think we put our best feet forward. It’s sad we didn’t win. It’s unfortunate that it was so close because it makes it harder.”

Both Jones and Avula expressed relief that the race was over. The campaign was so exhausting, Jones said, that he fell asleep while flyering graduate dorms at one point.

What are they going to do now?

“Sleep.”

The full results of the elections can be found at http://elections.stanford.edu.