Students sometimes criticize members of the Student Association for taking themselves too seriously and emulating real politicians down the street on Capitol Hill.
But when it comes to elections, both SA and national politicians have the similar philosophies about one thing: the Internet is a gold mine for campaigning.
Of the 10 students running for SA president and executive vice president, seven have bought a Web site and created a page to advertise their platforms and solicit campaign help.
Nicole Capp, a sophomore and presidential candidate, created nicolecapp.com to inform voters about her platform and endorsements as well as to let voters leave comments.
“I honestly think my Web site has the most information, (is the) most user-friendly, the most fun and (is) also updated every single day, which is emblematic of how I would be as president,” Capp said.
Other candidates, like juniors Casey Pond and Andrew Cooper who have pondandcooper.com, David “Tito” Wilkinson and Brand Kroeger who have titoandbrand.com and Marc Abanto and Nick D’Addario with gwstudentunion.com have also created ways to display their ideas on the web.
“A Web site is an effective way of communicating. (and) can hold more information in an organized manner,” said freshman Mohit Shah, who is running for an SA Senate seat. “It’s also kind of cool.”
Candidates have spent not only a significant amount of time designing their Web sites, but also significant amount of money. Prices ranged from $6 to $200, according to the candidates.
Creators and administrators of the Web sites are typically friends of the candidates, but Pond’s and Cooper’s Web site was created by Steven Harris, a professional who also designed former SA president Omar Woodard’s Web site. Their Web site was also the most expensive of all the SA Presidential candidate’s at $200.
Other candidates, like juniors Michael Ray Huerta, Chris Rotella and Elliot Bell-Krasner, do not have Web sites but do have pages sponsored by social networking sites, like Facebook.com.
Candidates using Web site’s like Facebook.com must be careful of receiving violations since most Facebook accounts of students are connected to their GW e-mail accounts.
The Joint Elections Committee is responsible for administering the student elections and has set out rules against sending unsolicited e-mails to students, which can be done at the request of a Facebook user.
Francis Murray, a freshman running for SA Senate, thinks the JEC makes it difficult for students not running on a slate to garner votes.
“I think a lot of the (JEC) rules are made on the fly sometimes, especially regarding Facebook,” said Murray. “. It really kills campaigning. It’s a school election. It’s supposed to be fun, too.”
In addition to having a group on Facebook or creating an independent Web site, at least one candidate is taking advantage of a popular video sharing Web site- YouTube.com
Ogheneruemu “OG” Oyiborhoro, a sophomore running for senate, created a YouTube video with the help of his roommate, Evan Vanderveer, who works for DVTime Studios, a multimedia design firm.
Less of a campaign video explaining his platform, and more reminiscent of a movie trailer, the video does not involve OG speaking, but rather music, text, and pictures of him posing.
“It draws students in. It’s different from anything any other student has done.”
Steven Livingston, a professor and the director of the Political Communication program in the School of Media and Public Affairs, is not surprised at the web-based campaign strategies that are taking place in the student elections.
“Students pay close attention to national trends and emulate them,” Livingston said. “My students are among the pioneers of web-based campaigning in national elections.”
Howard Dean, one of the 2004 Democratic presidential nominees, was one of the first politicians to use the Internet as an effective way to connect with voters. U.S. presidential candidates are employing similar tactics for the 2008 elections.
BarackObama.com, Web site of Democratic nominee Barack Obama, encourages visitors to create their own blogs, donate money, register to vote or volunteer. Sen. Hilary Clinton (D-NY), another presidential candidate, is including web videos or “HillCasts” for visitors to hear her talk about issues of which voters are concerned. She even announced he entrance into the 2008 race using a video on her Web site.
Livingston said the key to Web-based campaigning is to use it as a supplement to other campaign tactics. He recommends that SA candidates and candidates in national elections should focus on going out and speaking to the voters.
He said: “Web-based politicking is only a part of a multifaceted campaign strategy.”