On March 10, Elliot Spillers was elected the first African American SGA president at the University of Alabama in nearly 40 years. Prior to Spillers’ victory, Cleo Thomas was elected in 1976 as the first African American SGA president at the University of Alabama. Both Spillers and Thomas ran as independent candidates in opposition to “The Machine,” which was described in a 1992 Esquire cover story as “a secret society that for eighty years has controlled student politics at the University of Alabama… it acts as the political arm of twenty‐seven leading fraternities and sororities at the school.” Spillers is the first non-Machine candidate to win the SGA presidency since John Merrill in 1986, and Spillers credits a portion of his victory to dissenters within the Machine.
“The entire Machine is not a bad organization,” Spillers says. “It took members within that organization to stand beside me and go against the grain and get me elected to this office. Just like the rest of us on campus, they’re ready for change. They’re ready for an inclusive environment on campus.”
Spillers’ campaign aimed to create such an environment, with Spillers reaching out to Greek, non-Greek, and minority organizations on campus and publicizing the diversity of his platform on his campaign Facebook page. In total, 14,931 votes were cast on Election Day at the university, with Spillers earning 8,602 votes. Spillers received the highest number of votes of any other SGA candidate in the university’s history, and on a campus that has historically been plagued by voter apathy in response to the Machine, this year’s election featured the highest voter turnout in the history of the University of Alabama.
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