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Fourteen students.

It’s smaller than the size of many small seminar classes at Penn.

It’s also the voter margin by which College sophomore Dan Bernick beat out College junior Jake Shuster to become the next Undergraduate Assembly president.

Friday night, the Nominations and Elections Committee announced that Bernick had received 1,103 votes to Shuster’s 1,089 votes.

“I’m humbled and honored that Penn students said, we think you can serve us,” Bernick said. “There’s a lot of gratitude to everyone who helped me and supported me.”

Bernick will be joined by College and Wharton sophomore Abe Sutton, who was elected the new UA vice president Friday night. Sutton ran against College junior Erich Reimer and Engineering junior Matt Rosenberg.

“It was a humbling experience,” Sutton said. “Now we need to take that spirit that we campaigned on and keep it alive next year to really accomplish the goals that we set out to accomplish.”

The NEC reported an overall voter turnout of 41 percent, or 2,802 out of 6,895 eligible voters. This marks a 3-percent decrease from 2011, and an 8-percent decrease from 2010, according to College senior and NEC Chair Shomik Sarkar.

“One reason we saw lower voter turnout might have been the fact that there were so many uncontested races this year,” College junior and NEC Vice Chair for Elections Ariela Cohen said. “However, I do think we saw one of the most well-educated elections since my time at Penn.”

According to the NEC’s historic voting records, Bernick’s 14-vote victory over Shuster is unprecedented for a UA presidential race. Bernick will also be the first sophomore to serve as UA president since students were first eligible to vote for the position in 2010.

Last year, Engineering and Wharton senior Tyler Ernst was elected UA president by a margin of 784 votes. Similarly, in 2010, College graduate Matt Amalfitano won by a margin of 830 votes.

“We saw that some of the races [this year] were very close, so I hope this motivates people to realize that their vote really counts,” Cohen said.

Wharton freshman Christian Cortes, who was reelected as a UA representative, agreed.

“Another 50 votes could have certainly changed the outcome of the UA presidential election,” he said. “I hope this is an eye-opener for those who decided not to vote.”

Despite seeing the lowest voter turnout in three years and multiple uncontested races, the NEC will continue to experiment with several new campaign publicity initiatives it piloted this year.

The NEC experimented with social media this election cycle more than it has done in the past. For example, “Operation Run” — a YouTube video featuring Penn President Amy Gutmann and other well-known Penn professors — encouraged students to consider running for student government.

Although 12 new candidates ran, incumbents mostly won the class board elections.

College and Wharton junior and current Class of 2013 President Jonathon Youshaei, Wharton sophomore and current Class of 2014 President Spencer Penn and College freshman and current Class of 2015 President Ariel Koren will continue serving in their respective positions.

Sixty students ran for 74 positions in this election cycle, with several candidates running for both UA and Class Board positions. Even so, there was a shortage of two candidates for the four open positions of School of Engineering and Applied Science representative on the UA. According to Cohen, these positions — which UA and NEC bylaws dictate must be directly elected by the student body — will likely be filled by a special election in concurrence with next fall’s new student election.

Bernick believes the lack of student interest in running for Engineering representative is “a symptom of a UA that isn’t focused on students.” He added that he would be disappointed if there are any candidate shortages in the future.

Cohen is hopeful that the NEC’s efforts to increase voter turnout, student group endorsements and the number of candidates will prove beneficial in the future.

“We’re happy with the beginning results,” she said. “We are looking forward to see how these methods progress next year.”

This article has been updated to reflect that Shomik Sarkar is a senior in the College, not in Wharton.


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