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Kim elected SA president, Ngo wins nailbiter for treasurer in high-turnout race

Asibbey beats Doh in close race for secretary as nearly 2,000 students cast ballots

Data from Student Association director of elections. Graphic by Riya Misra / Thresher

By James Cancelarich     3/5/24 10:55pm

Jae Kim has been elected to serve as the next Student Association president, receiving 64% of first-place votes against Trevor Tobey, who received 34.2%. 

Kim, currently the Brown College president, ran on a platform of student advocacy, sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion. Tobey, the outgoing Hanszen College senator, ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and SA organization efficacy. 

“I’m looking forward to everything we will be able to get done this year. I’m grateful to everyone that helped me with my campaign,” Kim told the Thresher.

1,928 students voted in the election, amounting to a voter turnout of 42.09%, nearly triple last year’s turnout of 15.02%.

Thomas Ngo narrowly secured the treasurer position in a race against Joshua Stallings. Ngo, a McMurtry College freshman, took 49.5% of first-place votes while Stallings, a Duncan College sophomore, claimed 48.2%.

SA Director of Elections Jocelyn Wang said there will not be a recount. Because neither of the candidates received 50% of votes, the SA’s ranked-choice voting system kicked in. The 34 first-place votes in the “write-in” category were redistributed, with 18 marking Ngo as their second choice and 16 marking Stallings. Ngo ended with a lead of 21 votes.

Chelsea Asibbey, receiving 53.6% of first-place votes, won the secretary position in a race against Calla Doh. 

Crystal Unegbu will serve as the next internal vice president and Asianna Junge as the next external vice president after winning uncontested races.

Ngo and Asibbey were not on Kim’s ticket, which included Junge, Unegbu, Stallings and Doh.

SA data shows that this year’s voter turnout was the highest since 2018, when 51.6% of students voted.

Wang attributed the higher voting turnout to the number of contested executive positions, which she said was the root of more active campaigning and social media presence from the candidates. Wang also said that greater SA social media promoting the candidates and their platforms also likely contributed to higher turnout this election.

The ballot also included a constitutional amendment, which was approved with 83.2% of votes in favor. The amendment eliminates a 20% minimum voter participation for future constitutional amendments and allows for a simple majority student vote for approval rather than a favorable two-thirds vote. It also decreases the necessary Senate votes for a resolution to pass from two-thirds to a simple majority.

The amendment additionally introduces reforms to the Blanket Tax Committee that oversees some $400,000 in student funds, stipulating that the three treasurer-appointed voting members must be Senate members.

A student filed a complaint against the ballot’s description of the amendment with the University Court, according to an email from UCourt Chair Hugo Gerbich Pais to the SA listserv. UCourt has launched an investigation.

The amendment was initially approved by the Senate in April 2023, but did not receive the 20% of student body votes in the special elections necessary for ratification. It faced a previous UCourt investigation in the fall.

The ballot also included elections for Blanket Tax Organization presidents. This includes the Campanile editor-in-chief, Thresher editor-in-chief, KTRU station manager, Rice Rally president, Rice Program Council president, University Court chair, Rice Student Volunteer Program chair and Rice Women’s Resource Center director.

However, Wang said the race for Rice Women’s Resource Center director is under investigation after allegations of candidate misconduct in the internal approval process.

“The elections committee received a complaint concerning the election of the RWRC director. They were advised to not publicize results until the election committee has investigated the matter and released a decision regarding the validity of the complaint,” Wang wrote in a message to the Thresher. “A proper investigation ensures the fairness and integrity of the elections and the Student Association are preserved.”

In an interview after the election, Kim said that he is looking forward to the presidency. Regarding the election of Asibbey and Ngo, who were not on his ticket, Kim said he was excited to work with new people who may bring new ideas to the SA. 

“I’m excited to hear their thoughts, hear their vision and incorporate that into the work that we do,” Kim said.

Tobey said that he is grateful for the conversations he started around campus.

“I am very proud of the campaign that we ran, and am so thankful for all the people that helped us in sharing our vision for campus,” Tobey wrote in an email to the Thresher. “This was the start of something special and the conversations we started, the friends we met and this experience alone made it all worthwhile.”

While reflecting on her victory, Asibbey thanked the voters and the people around her.

“I want to say thank you to everyone who took the time to vote, I could not have won without you,” Asibbey wrote in an email to the Thresher. “Thank you to my friends and family for their ongoing support. Thank you Jesus for holding it down. Once again, thank you to the people for giving me the opportunity to serve you. I aim to spend this next term leaving things better than I found it.”

Once he assumes office, Kim said his first priorities are to assemble a strong executive-appointed team and prepare budgeting for the upcoming fiscal year. Another priority, Kim said, is to engage with the student body more.

“The Student Association only has legitimacy and the influence that it wants to have if it’s perceived … to be a body that can enact real change,” Kim said. He said he hopes to achieve this, in part, through student outreach and advocacy from non-voting members.

“I really want non-voting member students to feel comfortable … using the SA’s resources and connections and using this organization as a vessel to enact the changes that they’d like to see,” Kim said. 

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