Web adds new dimension to campus electioneering

Candidates in this year’s campus elections have a new forum to pitch their platforms to student voters – the World Wide Web.

Student Association presidential and executive vice presidential candidates are using cyberspace to provide information about their campaigns and information about who to contact to get involved in the race.

The Web adds another facet to student campaigns, but it also provides unique challenges, as some candidates have discovered.

The Joint Elections Committee – the nine-member body that oversees campus elections – considers campaigning on the Internet under its jurisdiction, said JEC Chair Terry Goddard.

The same campaign literature distribution rules that apply to paper campaign materials also cover Web sites, Goddard said.

Candidates using home pages for campaigns must submit a hard copy of the Web site’s design, as well as any changes, to the JEC for approval before the page goes on the Web. The JEC Web site provides links to candidates’ sites.

EVP candidate Jason Haber said his Web site offers information about his platform and a list of the people working on his campaign. Interested students can send e-mail messages to members of Haber’s campaign staff through the Web site.

Haber’s site allows Web surfers to send instant feedback about his ideas while his platform is right on the screen, Haber said.

The JEC’s requirements for “cyber-campaigning” has posed a problem for SA presidential candidate Sabina Siddiqui, who already had established a personal Web site before the election.

Because she already had used her GWIS2 account to create a Web page, she said it was difficult to create a new site for her campaign. But she said she hopes to get the kinks worked out and plans to have her site up this week.

“The page has to be approved by the JEC and if we put it on an existing account, it would be up before the JEC could approve it, so we are working on how to get the page going without violating the JEC rules,” Siddiqui said.

EVP candidate Jesse Strauss has a Web site, but he has downplayed it as an electioneering tool in his campaign. He said a Web page displays a candidate’s technical knowledge, a trait he said he feels is important since technology upgrades are an issue in this year’s elections.

But he said he does not feel having a Web page increases voter support.

“(A Web site) is something any campaign needs to have, but it’s not a real vote-getter,” he said. “My campaign is committed to innovation . using a Web page was innovative two or three years ago, but it is common practice now.”

SA presidential candidates Patrick Macmanus and Carrie Potter also have posted campaign Web sites.

Senate candidates Alexis Rice, who is running for an undergraduate Columbian School of Arts and Sciences seat, and Patricia McGaa, an Elliott School of International Affairs candidate also boast campaign sites.

Macmanus said he faced difficulties with his site before he even placed it on the Web. He said he and members of his campaign suspect that someone attempted to sabotage his Web page before it was online. Macmanus said the JEC is investigating the incident.

JEC policy forbids committee members from commenting on charges made against campaigns unless a candidate or his campaign is found guilty of the charges and fines are levied, according to JEC rules.

But Goddard said the JEC has reviewed a charge of malicious campaigning against the Macmanus campaign, but found “no malicious intent or evidence of that nature.”

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