Tiffany Frandsen | Managing Editor | @tiffany_mf
With the beginning of the UVU Student Association elections, students will start to receive flyers outlining platforms and tchotchkes with one of two campaigning teams, One or Up, printed on them.
But not until March 2,because the campaign rules for UVUSA explicitly prohibit the distribution of physical materials before that date, the first day of voting. Since neither team can physically promote itself – on or off campus – until Feb. 21, all campaigning until then is done on social media.
To promote their platforms, candidates will need to rely pretty heavily on social media, which is generally free from the financial limits, and not under such strict scrutiny as the physical campaigning. There is one debate held the week before the election and banners hang in hallways. The student body is hard to permeate, since platforms aren’t generally printed on banners and campaign literature can’t be passed out on campus until the first day of voting.
UVU’s campaign season is strictly contained to one month, from Feb. 9 to March 4. Candidates were prohibited from soliciting votes in any way prior to Feb. 9, but could ask for help from friends and acquaintances.
To keep money from influencing the election, donations are capped at $1,800 per team: $400 per candidate for the president and vice presidents, and $200 for the vice president of clubs.
“If someone has an unlimited amount of funds, they have access to a lot more, in terms of what they use to incentivize students to vote,” said Marissa King, the assistant director of student leadership and involvement at UVU.
The election committee decided on the cap based on other Utah universities and on the history of student campaign finance. In the past, there had been instances of students using their credit cards on the elections.
“It helps level the playing ground and eliminate anything that’s on an excessive level,” said King. “We don’t want someone that has wealthy parents [who] are willing to put the money into it and come in and overpower another student that maybe doesn’t come from that background.”
The cap is enforced by the election committee, which collects receipts from candidates and validates the spending. They compare the physical materials with the receipts to make sure everything was submitted.
“There’s an honor aspect of it, but with our experience with elections, we can usually tell,” said Tyler Brklacich, current UVUSA president, and member of the election committee.
Candidates can give their own money to the team, or solicit donations. Any donors or sponsors need to be submitted to the election committee, who pass the lists on to the Development Office, which is the office that oversees UVU Foundation, the fundraising arm of the university.
The Development Office asks candidates not to approach any businesses or companies that they are planning to contact for donations to the university.
“A lot of those donors don’t necessarily care about the dollar amount, just the act of giving. They typically won’t give more than once a year, so when we ask [UVUSA candidates] to provide that information, it’s so we can contact the Development Office and make sure that there’s not going to be any conflicts like that,” said King.
It is a campus-wide policy for all clubs; the UVU Foundation would rather solicit donors for thousands of dollars, rather than have one club or one student council candidate benefit from one hundred.
“It’s to protect the institution and give the institution the chance to grow as much as possible,” said King.
The teams are encouraged to get discounts and coupons and report the discounted price they receive (rather than the market price), as long as the establishment would offer the same discount to the opposing team, in an effort to keep the race as balanced as possible.
Both teams have access to discounted printing from the university, at $1 per linear foot, compared to $4-$5 per foot at Fedex or VistaPrint.
The campaign cap has doubled from two years ago. Before the 2014 race, campaigns were limited to $200 per team. That limit was breached by a campaign event with a $450 price tag during the 2012-2013 race. That led to the elected officials raising the limit campaigns could spend in October 2013.
Parameters like this are changed and executed by the election committee, which is made up of the current Student Body President, as well as other UVU students, staff and faculty.
Other restrictions, according to the 2015-2016 Student Body Officer Candidate Packet, include no campaigning or campaign materials within 50 feet of any voting booths, computer labs, kiosks (which students are able to vote on) or UVUSA offices. The restrictions in the packet extend to candidates not being allowed within 50 feet of the booths, labs or kiosks – which are littered liberally through building hallways – unless it is to cast their own votes.
“The labs and the kiosks are one of the more difficult things to do, you just have to be mindful of your surroundings. There’s still a lot of school to campaign in, so it’s not too bad,” said Brklacich. “The hard part too, is controlling your volunteers. A lot of times, they have the best intentions, but can forget the rules themselves.”
Candidates also have to stay away from their competitor’s designated areas. They are “not permitted to hand out flyers, talk about another team or argue in the other team’s designated area,” according to the packet.
Classrooms are also off-limits for any campaign activity, including distribution of paraphernalia or lobbying of professors to make announcements.
Both teams have a challenge in not only getting the attention of students, but getting them to vote. Last year, more than 15 percent of students voted, with 3,652 ballots cast. 15 percent was a record-breaking number, up from 12 percent in 2013, and 8.9 percent in 2012.
Tiffany is the Deputy Managing Editor for Spring 2015. Follow her on twitter @tiffany_mf