By Tory Hernandez
Union referendum fails
A total of 4,413 students cast votes and the referendum on a $40 per semester fee for Memorial Student Union renovations failed 71.8 percent to 24.2 percent.
After the results were announced, Associated Students President Gilbert Davidson said he was impressed with the turnout and planned to continue working on the Memorial Student Union referendum.
"The student body has spoken and the administration has heard, the Student Union is important to all of us, but we want to find a better way to finance it," Davidson said in a prepared statement.
The referendum would have imposed the mandatory fee to fund $31.5 million of a proposed $70 million in Memorial Student Union renovations.
Elections commissioner Marcos Hernandez announced the results to the small crowd of students and media gathered outside the UA Associated Students Bookstore at 9:30 last night. He said the turnout was the largest in the last 10 years and possibly in the s chool's history.
University of Arizona President Peter Likins said earlier this month that if students defeated the referendum, it would send a message to the Arizona Board of Regents and the State Legislature that students did not support the entire Student Union renovat ion project.
Administrators and student leaders said their next step would be to convince Likins and the regents that students supported a new building, but not necessarily a fee.
"We need to let the regents know that we mean Union yes, fee no with this vote," said Jonathan Schmitt, an opponent of the fee and former UA student regent . "I think students do want a Union and realize that a Union is necessary. But a fee didn't make se nse at this point in time."
Saundra Taylor, vice president for student affairs, said students leaders would now have work to convince Likins that the student body supports the Student Union renovation project.
"First, we have to have the president believe that students support the Union," Taylor said, "But students need to understand that we don't think we can do this project without their support."
Dean of Students Melissa Vito said she was worried about the potential setback to the project.
"But I think it's clear that one of the messages was no on the fee, but yes on the Union," Vito said.
Henry Lewis, a Pima County Elections administrative specialist who helped count the vote, said it was the largest election return he had counted in the 10 years he had been tabulating UA ballots.
Off campus students accounted for 2,586 votes and hall residents added 963 votes.
Graduate students came out in large numbers as well, accounting for 11 percent of the total tally with 507 votes. Only 74 graduate students voted in last year's election, that included a $1 refundable fee to support KAMP Student Radio.
There were few problems with the elections process, Hernandez said. Student identification connections went down early yesterday afternoon and poll workers had to write down student ID numbers instead of electronically scanning them.
"It's happened before in other elections with certain polls losing connections, but it was never a problem," Hernandez said. Had the results been closer, Hernandez said it may have been necessary to further analyze student identification.
Students rejected the Student Referndum by a landslide over the last two days:
Of the total ballots cast:
Total ballots cast: 4,413