For the past few months, Student Council President campaigns bombarded students from all angles. Candidate posters papered hallways, platforms launched on PAnet and, a more recent development, personalized paraphernalia like T-shirts and wristbands shouted promotional slogans.
These marketing materials are essential to the excitement the election season spreads through the student body. Creative campaigning strategies are popular topics of discussion and music videos create sensations. Distributing personalized goods helps spread enthusiasm and encourage voter participation, but this strategy takes campaigns to a new level of spending that undermines the equality of the elections.
Candidates should all campaign on a level ground, regardless of whether how much they are willing or able to spend in the process. Expensive campaign schemes like producing special gear by no means emphasize money intentionally, but they do carry price tags and catch attention. When high campaign spending directs which candidates make it to higher rounds in the election, voters’ ability to evaluate each candidate individually decreases. Candidates should not feel pressure to buy anything in order to have a chance in the presidential race.
The current campaign budget policy is foggy, offering a loose rule and no consequences for breaking it. Candidates learn from Student Council that their own budget should be $50, covering expenses like printing posters in the Polk Center. There is no rule addressing how much money other people may contribute to support a candidate, so fans are free to buy what they like in support of a candidate.
Student Council could set a fixed budget of $50 for the total amount that can be spent on one candidate’s campaign, including the candidate’s own money and gifts from friends, family or other endorsers. One way of enforcing this would be for Student Council to ask candidates to track of their expenses in logs, which the council would review. The second side of the policy has to be some consequence for overspending, like elimination from the race. This would help candidates focus on creative uses of limited resources, rather than overwhelming the students with promotional items.
Another method for curbing spending would be to restrict candidates to using posters, videos and other permitted mediums and venues, such as debates, for promotional purposes. This would help maintain a level playing field where each candidate has a chance to show their wit and promote their platform in the same way.
As it stands, campaign rules place little emphasis on money but the campaigns themselves sometimes venture into outrageous spending. Reverse this, enforce more limits and accountability, and maybe the emphasis on products in the presidential race will relax and open up the field for other kinds of creative campaign tactics.
Debate over campaign spending occurs on a national level. The topic received much attention in January 2010 when the Supreme Court rejected two precedents to overrule a limit on the amount a corporation may spend supporting a candidate in an election. Some may argue that, like the Supreme Court ruling on the case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Andover should allow unlimited spending on behalf of someone’s campaign. However, for the school to follow this policy hurts the entire student body. To ensure equal opportunity for all students wishing to run and guarantee the best chance of an finding an effective leader, Andover must make the level playing field a priority.
This Editorial represents the views of The Phillipian Board CXXXIV.