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Wiatt wins external vice president race, with low voter turnout amid preoccupation with COVID-19

Photo by Tina Liu | The Rice Thresher

Infographic by Tina Liu

By Anna Ta     3/24/20 9:17pm

Isabel Wiatt won 64.5 percent of the vote over Kevin Guo in the race for Student Association external vice president, the only race in the second round elections, which take place in order to fill SA offices that had not garnered candidates in the first round of elections. The results drew the SA elections to a close with a low 16.5 percent voter turnout rate as students scrambled to adjust to college life in the midst of a pandemic.

Wiatt, a Sid Richardson College sophomore, said that while the pandemic has had a great effect on personal lives as well as on the SA, she is looking forward to working with the Senate on measures to mitigate its effects on the student body.

“One thing that has kept me sane throughout this time (I'm on day 15 of quarantine) is the knowledge that pretty much every single person on Earth is feeling the effects of this pandemic,“ Wiatt wrote to an email to the Thresher. “This being said, I am excited for this opportunity to help advocate for students and work towards making quick and tangible things happen like the petition that has lead to the Pass/Fail resolution.”

659 voted out of 3978 eligible students, with 425 votes for Wiatt, 206 for Guo and 28 write-ins. While the turnout rate of the first round elections, 28.4 percent, was already significantly lower than 2019 and 2018, which had 42 percent and over 50 percent respectively, the timing of the second round voting period overlapped a time period of significant change in students’ lives and the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.

Voting began on March 9, the day students were informed that the entire next week of classes would be canceled to give the university time to prepare for the possibility of moving to remote instruction in response to the growing concerns surrounding COVID-19. Voting closed March 12 at noon, the day students were informed that they had less than two weeks to move off campus and that Rice would transition completely to virtual education.

The role garnered no candidates during first round elections, requiring the second round of elections a few weeks later. 

Wiatt said she decided to run in the second round to help create the changes in the SA.

“Originally I was hesitant to run for an elected position again because I felt like I had lost some interest in the Student Association and was seeing a lot of things that made the organization unattractive to me,“ Wiatt said. “However, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how valuable it could be to use my knowledge of the SA's shortcomings to help change them. This year, my mission is to hold the SA to an extremely high standard and to make the organization something that students are proud of.”

Guo, a Will Rice College junior who initially filed a candidate petition for the SA treasurer race against John Cook, dropped out of that race with the expressed intention of running for EVP instead.

At the time, Guo told the Thresher that he believed that Cook, a Will Rice sophomore who had been filling the role of SA deputy treasurer, had more experience for the role than he did, whereas his own leadership experience would be better suited to the EVP role.

[03/25/2020 2:32 p.m.] This article was updated with quotes from Wiatt. The Thresher reached out to Guo and will update the article with his quotes.

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