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Bansal, Kessler Elected UAP/VP in Close Vote

By Reuven M. Lerner
News Editor

Shally Bansal '93 and David J. Kessler '94 narrowly beat three opposing teams to win this year's Undergraduate Association elections, according to unofficial results released last night by the UA election commission.

The results will be formally recognized at Wednesday night's UA Council meeting.

The Bansal/Kessler team captured just over 26 percent of the 1213 first-choice votes, only 10 more than the second-place team of Kai-Teh Tao '94 and Peter Verprauskus '94, who received 308 votes.

Stephen A. Rinehart '93 and Jeremy H. Brown '94, who campaigned on a platform of apathy, came in a close third with 304 first-place votes, or 25 percent. The fourth-place team of Emily R. Prenner '93 and Anne S. Tsao '94 received 283 first-choice votes, about 23 percent.

Only 30 percent of students eligible to vote did so, according to Raajnish A. Chitaley '95, UA election commissioner.

This year's election was one of the longest and most complicated in many years, in part due to the March 11 theft of a ballot box from Lobby 7. A group calling itself the "Student's Revolutionary Government" said the theft was only the beginning of a popular campaign to overthrow the UA. Students who had voted in Lobby 7 on March 11 were allowed to cast their ballots again two days later. About 500 of the nearly 700 students who voted in the original election cast their ballots a second time on Friday.

Excited about posibilities

Bansal, interviewed in the UA president's office, said she is "very excited" about the upcoming year, but was not sure what she will do first when she becomes UAP in May.

Kessler, who was "absolutely shocked" when he first heard the election results, said there were a number of ideas that he wanted to act on immediately, including the possibility of turning the Burton-Conner House dining room into a "hangout for people on west campus."

"It was a really good race -- in general, not a bitter race at all," Kessler said, adding that "I'm very impressed with how the race was won."

While Bansal would not speculate on why she won the election, Kessler attributed their success to the fact that they spent time with students, asking for ways in which the UA could improve their lives. One of the most important issues among independent living group members, Kessler said, was the fact that sidewalks on the Harvard Bridge are rarely plowed when it snows.

Kessler also mentioned the possibility of unlocking women's bathrooms, first raised by Rinehart and Brown at a debate on March 1. Providing keys is "a really quick thing that can get done immediately," he said, adding that there was no reason not to use other candidates' ideas if they would improve students' lives at the Institute.

Results will be uncontested

Candidates interviewed last night unanimously agreed not to contest the election results.

Bansal and Tao, who had called on the UA to hold new elections, said that they would accept the results, mostly because the UA Council had voted to accept them. Prenner, meanwhile, said that she had been opposed to holding new elections from the beginning, and that she would hold to this principle even though she lost.

"I guess I still think the fairest way to do this would be to have a re-election," Bansal said. "But I think that because [the] council voted on whether or not to consider the votes valid, that if [the] council in general feels these results were valid, then they are valid."

Tao agreed with Bansal's assessment, saying that "it was kind of ironic that the two teams that came in first and second both favored the re-election and wanted to ensure the integrity of everything."

Prenner and Tao both felt their teams would have done better if they had paid more attention to advertising. "I would have spent more time on advertising. That was definitely a weakness in our campaign," Prenner said.

"We didn't think it was going to be as major a factor as it was," Tao said. "We were hoping we could spread our message by word of mouth. In hindsight, we could have printed up more posters. For the amount of publicity we did, we did pretty well."

Weather was a factor

Chitaley was at a loss for why so few students voted, but said that the bad weather -- it was raining on the day of elections -- was a contributing factor. "We usually get 300 people voting at Baker [House], and this year we didn't," he said. Very few people voted at Theta Xi, usually a popular polling place, he added.

Indeed, fewer students voted in this year's election than in UA elections during the previous two years. Last year, 33 percent of students voted; 38 percent voted the previous year. This year's turnout was estimated at about 30 percent.

Particularly confusing, Chitaley said, was the fact that so few people voted even with such a large field of candidates. "There were four presidential candidates, a bunch for the Class of 1994, and for the Class of 1995." The election was, he added, a "large contest."