University of Wisconsin students narrowly defeated a referendum that would have potentially spent more than $100 million of segregated fees during the next 14 years to renovate both campus unions during the Associated Students of Madison spring elections.
The referendum would have demolished and rebuilt Union South and made important renovations to the Memorial Union. However, students voted it down 2,385 to 2,200.
College Democrats Chair Liz Sanger, who opposed the referendum, said although there are a lot of changes that need to be made at the unions, students will now have more time to offer input on the issue.
“I don’t think [students] were presented with information in a way that was forthcoming,” Sanger said, adding a message that resonated among many students, “If you like the union, vote yes,” was “too simple.”
But many hoped “yes” would prevail, which would have funded up to 75 percent of the project with student money.
Union Council Facilities Committee Chair and Hoofers Council President Jenny Dahlberg said the issue is not new and discussions have been going on for many years.
“I don’t think people are opposed to it for [the] right reasons — just uneducated,” she said, adding the union held several open forums for students to learn about the referendum.
The election also filled 31 open seats on the Student Council and three Student Services Finance Committee seats.
The SEC reported a voter turnout of 4,671 — approximately 12 percent of the student body — which Student Election Commission Chair Tim Leonard said is an increase of about 1,000 votes from last spring’s election.
In a phone interview Thursday night, Leonard said extra activities by SEC members, like handing out Mardi Gras beads with voting information, helped increase the turnout.
Although no complaints had officially been filed as of Wednesday night, Leonard said he has heard from a person who does not want to be identified who will likely file a complaint regarding the election.
All of the reported results are preliminary, according to Leonard. The SEC has two weeks to verify the votes, after which results will go to the ASM Student Judiciary for certification.