Tim Kubick / For The Lantern
The incumbent Taylor Stepp was re-elected as Undergraduate Student Government president in a historic Ohio State election.
Stepp was the only candidate listed on the ballot, making for the first unopposed USG presidential election since 1966. After facing no official challengers, Stepp will serve as the first two-term president since the 2002 election.
Stepp was re-elected after receiving 70.6 percent of the votes cast for president in the 2013 election. He will serve alongside newly elected vice president, Josh Ahart.
“I’m really excited. We’ve had a very long campaign this year. I’m really excited to stay in the office and continue doing some work,” Stepp said Saturday.
This year’s election brought in 4,027 valid votes, with 2,649 going to Stepp and Ahart, both third-years in public affairs. The 2013 USG election turnout was roughly half that of last year’s presidential election, when four campaigns competed and 8,279 people voted. The turnout for 2012 was the highest voter turnout since 1975.
Yet Ahart said he is happy with the number of votes cast considering he and Stepp were running unopposed.
“I’m really relieved that students actually voted, that they got involved in the process,” Ahart said. “They did not say, ‘Well USG is not important … we don’t need to vote this time.’ That’s what I’m relieved about.”
Write-in candidates captured 29.4 percent of the votes. Jacob Coate, a second-year in political science, and James Prather, a second-year in finance, were the leading write-in candidates with 412 votes. OSU students Josh Samuels and Michael Dasu captured 186 votes, and Goat captured 242 votes according to Tyler Byrum, chief justice of the USG Judicial Panel and a third-year in engineering physics.
Goat is based off @GoatForUSG, a Twitter account that aimed to achieve “Better accountability in USG, better grazing” in the 2012 election. The account had more than 200 followers Sunday evening.
Stepp said he was impressed with voter turnout.
“This year it became clear that part of the student body had some real issues with USG, but the overwhelming turnout … the fact that (the election) got 4,000 votes is honestly really impressive to me,” he said.
Stepp and Ahart thanked their team, including campaign manager Christopher Dalton, a second-year in political science and economics. Dalton also worked on Stepp’s campaign last year with Kevin Arndt, a fourth-year in political science and public affairs and former USG vice president.
“They do a lot of work for the student body population. I’m very proud of the work that they’ve done, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they will accomplish in the next year,” Dalton said.
Stepp said he is ready to leave the campaign behind and get back to work in USG.
“This has been by far the busiest time of my entire life, so as this campaign winds down, I am so excited to go back to being somewhat of a normal person,” Stepp said. “I’m so relieved because this has been such a burden on Josh and I both, now we can get back to work and work on helping students out.”
First on Stepp and Ahart’s list is improving landlord accountability in the off-campus area. USG has also been working on followed by more Buckeye Road Trips, a free bus service that provides rides to cities around the state for select weekends and an overhaul of the USG constitution.
“I’m really excited just to get to work,” Ahart said. “I’m really excited to see how the new constitution comes out, and hopefully it will make our organization a lot stronger and efficient.”
Ahart also said he and Stepp will begin working on the push for digital textbooks and better communication within USG and with the student body.
While Coate and his write-in campaign team lost the election, he said in a previous Lantern article he was “really, really happy” with the outcome.
“We’re thrilled with the turnout, given that we ran the campaign for like six days,” he said.
Having never been involved with USG previous to his run for president, Coate was running to bring change to the system. He said the campaign allowed for a dialogue on key issues that might not have otherwise surfaced and hopes to see changes in student government in the coming year.
“I’m going to be very disappointed next year if it’s business as usual at USG,” Coate said.
There were seven initiatives on the USG ballot this year and 33 senators elected. Most ballot initiatives passed, including initiatives to create oversight committee, allow for representation of international students and increase size of the general assembly. However, Issue Two, which would have allowed for more representation in USG from OSU’s five branch campuses, did not pass.
All elected members of USG will be sworn in on March 27 at the first general assembly meeting, according to the USG Election Board.