Spending records in national and local government elections are often subjected to intense public scrutiny.
Since it is common knowledge that there is usually a positive correlation between the amount of money spent and the number of votes won by the candidate due to the ability to print more flyers, air more commercials and put up more signs, it seems wise to control and record a candidate’s use of money.
Of course, the idea behind these spending limits is that each candidate in a given election will remain on an equal playing field. In other words, instead of simply winning because of the ability to publicize more, candidates are encouraged to focus on selling themselves to the public through their political platforms.
The ASUCI election results last week showed a typical distribution of votes among the six presidential candidates. However, on closer inspection, one can see that the predicted positive correlation between money spent and votes won holds true.
Consider that the two candidates who spent no money on their campaigns, Scott Mackenzie and Kenn Huber, received the least votes (95 and 112 respectively). That their vote counts differed by only 17 is somewhat surprising, considering that Mackenzie did not attend the candidate debate, nor did he grant the New University’s request for an interview, whereas Huber utilized both of these avenues of no-cost self-promotion. Thus, money seemed to influence the number of votes received rather than campaigning efforts.
On the other hand, the winner of the ASUCI presidential election, Carlos Feliciano as well as the runner-up, Ryan Sanders, both spent over $1,000 each, and received 1,450 and 1268 votes respectively.
Bryce Gilleland and Ben Ritter (third and fourth place, respectively) also follow the trend. Gilleland, who spent a great deal more than Ritter, also received many more votes.
In the past, ASUCI imposed spending limits on candidates, but these limits were repealed when a student sued ASUCI, claiming that they were a violation of his right to free speech. However, it is interesting to note that the court’s decision was never appealed.
While most would agree that our very local ASUCI elections may not deserve the same scrutiny as government elections, these results show that some form of spending limits should be be enforced to give those who may not be able to spend hundreds of dollars, a chance to be a part of student government.
At the very least, ASUCI could spend more time and money to promoting the neutral ‘campaigning’ opportunities, such as debates, which were barely publicized and scarcely attended.
Or, perhaps, they could actually enforce their own rules allowing ‘only one banner, poster or flyer per event per posting area.’ This way, no matter how many posters a candidate can afford to spend, there will be some sense of equality in at least one aspect of campaigning.
After all, isn’t our purpose in electing our representatives to select someone sympathetic to our needs? By segregating the majority of students who cannot afford spending over $1,000 to campaign we are essentially refusing to accurately represent the students and their interests.
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Filed Under: Opinion