This year, students campaigning for Undergraduate Student Government offices are required to play by a new set of rules. A revised elections code changed the campaign process and extended the voting period.
The revised code established a preparation period between Dec. 19 and Jan. 21, where the candidates could only speak to their running mate and five other individuals whom they listed as affiliated with the campaign. The changes to the Election Code also split the campaign period into two parts.
The first period, which lasted from Jan. 22 to Feb. 3, allowed candidates to promote themselves and their platforms on social media and attend meetings of official organizations to discuss their platforms. Candidates, however, were prohibited from distributing any physical materials.
The second phase of the campaign, which began on Feb. 4 and ends on Feb. 13, allows for distribution of physical materials such as pamphlets and t-shirts, endorsements and campaigning on Trousdale Parkway. The voting period now extends from Feb. 10 to 13.
Asher Genoot, USG’s Assistant Director of Elections and Recruitment, said the changes to the Elections Code helps the candidates save on campaign costs because they have more time to prepare materials and do not have to expedite shipping. It also gives candidates a chance to speak with students in specific schools who might feel under represented.
“Our goal this year [was] to make the elections as straightforward as possible, make them understandable and, in terms of voting, to reach out to as many voters in as many schools — to reach out to the entire student body,” Genoot said.
Genoot also said when determining the changes the Elections and Recruitment team spoke with the elections commission — a group of non-USG students — as well as candidates and elections teams from previous years. Genoot said candidates have had few complaints thus far — a fact that he attributes to the newly established timelines within the election code.
“There is no room for opinion and there is no room for ‘maybe we can do this, maybe we can do that,’” Genoot said. “I think all the candidates understand what we did and are listening to the rules and the timelines we set.”
The revised code also stipulates that members of the Judicial Council and Elections and Recruitment team must relinquish their position if they wish to run for elected office. This situation has not previously occured, but Genoot said the revised code aims to eliminate ambiguity and provide answers to any questions that might arise. It also outlines a specific list of pre-determined infractions.
Presidential candidate Andrew Menard said though he believes that the changes in the code were intended to help candidates, they have made campaigning more difficult in some areas.
“The social media week was intended to make it a little easier on the candidates by not allowing physical campaigning during that time and encourage us to not miss as much class,” Menard said. “When you’re campaigning, you’re a full-time campaigner and it can be really difficult to stay on top of school. You want to reach out to as many students as possible [and] hear as much of student issues as you possibly can.”
But Menard said because the campaign process is now longer, the overall campaign is more taxing and the strict time constraints make reaching out to students more difficult.
“I wish we were allowed to talk to more students then just five over winter break because that would really enable us to be more prepared and get more feedback from students in a time where we’re not also trying to balance school,” he said. “Now, from Jan. 22 to Feb. 13, you have to try and reach out to all 17,000-plus students, and that’s really hard to do in a month.”
Though residential senatorial candidate Aziz Akbari is running his first campaign, he said the addition of a social media week makes sense in the increasingly digital age. Akbari said the extended campaign time has taken some of the pressure off of candidates because they have more time to do the same amount of campaigning as in previous years. Akbari explained that his campaign now relies on monitoring the success of its online outreach.
“I think that’s been really beneficial for me because most people spend a large portion of their day online, especially with social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram,” Akbari said. “So if you’re able to get your name out a little bit earlier, get people talking about you — it’s been really helpful and we’ve been able to track how many people have seen our posts and how many people are actually paying attention to what we put out there.”
Greek senatorial candidate Providence Illisevich said the new rules taught her to use each allotted time period to her advantage.
“I think before [the revised code] it was kind of like a sprint and now its like a marathon,” Illisevich said. “There’s a decision you have to make if some people are going to try to run the marathon like a sprint — it’s all about pacing.”
Illisevich also said that because social media is a user-driven medium and people have the opportunity to repost things, it gives candidates more time to interact with their constituency and allows constituents to take a closer look at candidates’ platforms.