Donovan Cusick and Molly Whalen win ASG presidential election while turnout rate hits record-low of about 2%


Photo courtesy of Molly Whalen

ASG’s new co-presidents, Donovan Cusick and Molly Whalen, respectively. This year’s ASG voter turnout is the lowest in at least the last 14 years.

Joanna Hou, Campus Editor

SESP junior Donovan Cusick and McCormick junior Molly Whalen won the Associated Student Government presidential election, with about 95% of the vote. The two will serve as co-presidents the upcoming academic year. 

According to Election Commissioner and Communication freshman Enzo Banal, the unopposed slate won 166 of the 175 votes cast, with nine voters casting no-confidence votes. The number of votes cast this year is significantly lower than the 1,950 cast last year and marks a record low in at least the last 14 years. The last uncontested election, held in 2019, brought in 852 votes.

Northwestern has more than 8,000 undergraduate students, bringing the turnout to about 2% of the undergraduate student body. 

Banal said while ASG “cannot be confident” about what led to such low turnout, it may have been caused by changes in the Division of Student Affairs’ operations. While the division used to send out emails to specifically remind undergraduate students to vote, Banal said its choice to rather incorporate election messaging into its weekly Paw Print Newsletter may have reduced turnout. 

“While we believe the Paw Print is a practical and helpful resource for us to reference details for upcoming events, its usefulness as a medium for outreach is limited, evidenced by this weekend’s turnout,” Banal said. “We could not inspire the degree of civic participation we’ve enjoyed in past years without institutional backing.” 

Student Affairs has not sent out mass emails encouraging voting since 2021, but Banal said the “contentiousness” of the 2022 election could have driven up turnout last year. Cusick said the fact this year’s election was uncontested likely influenced voter turnout. 

He said he and Whalen are taking the time to meet with students and various student groups on campus to learn about their concerns and demands. Whalen said many of the groups they’ve spoken to support the ticket’s proposal to send multiple groups with similar funding demands to meet the administration as a collective. Cusick and Whalen believe a coalition will better the chances of the administration meeting student’s demands.

“I wouldn’t necessarily mark (low voter turnout) up as low support for us,” Cusick said. “Voter turnout or not, it doesn’t really change motivation for still getting involved in and making a change.”

Cusick and Whalen have both participated in ASG since their freshman years. Cusick has served as vice president, interim chair of finance, chief of staff and a SESP senator. Whalen has served as executive officer of accountability, policy research chair and a Communication senator. 

In their first days in office, Whalen said connecting with Susan Davis, NU’s new vice president for student affairs, will be a top priority. 

“We really want to be able to build a relationship with her as that’s going to be really instrumental to how we’re able to work in the coming years,” Whalen said. 

Cusick said Student Affairs handles student concerns including conduct, funding and residential life. The Cusick-Whalen ticket prioritized improving student group funding and residential resource access for off-campus students in their platform. 

Following the Clark Street Beach shooting Wednesday that exposed University emergency communication lapses, Whalen said she and Cusick have already reached out to administration to ask who will talk to ASG about student safety. 

“Once (the administration) unveils their process for how they’re going to get feedback, I’m hoping that we can suggest appropriate adjustments if necessary, to make sure it’s not just ASG that they’re talking to but students at large,” Whalen said. 

The two will also focus on assembling a cabinet in the upcoming weeks. Whalen said she’s looking forward to working with a new executive board, and added the pair’s past relationships with administration will allow them to “get started right away.” 

Cusick said he’s excited to continue having discussions with new people and seeing some of the changes he’s helped make this year extend into future years. 

“I hope some of the things that we’ve been working on this year can continue and want to ensure promises from administration are followed through on,” Cusick said. “Hopefully (we can) really change some of the groundwork to make (ASG) and the University better in the long run.”

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated how the Division of Student Affairs modified ASG election messaging this year. The Daily regrets the error.

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Twitter: @joannah_11

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