With national elections just finishing, it’s time for the annual elections for President and Vice President of the Undergraduate Council (UC), Harvard College’s student government. Of course, being at this campus, the campaign is run by former student staffers from the Obama and McCain campaigns, so each side has it’s set of students serving as campaign and finance managers, in communications teams, on ground operations, and more.
Like any good political campaign, we started by building up our political base. I’m working on the Ebrahim|Cao campaign, where we’re working on, among other issues, to keep the momentum up on initiatives to improve student social life on campus. Led by Senan ’12 and Bonnie ’12, we built up a platform, worked out a messaging strategy, designed and developed a website, and gathered up students to fill all the positions on the campaign. As required by the UC’s Election Commission, a student-run body setup just to administer the rules for the elections, we gathered hundreds of signatures to get onto the ballot.
Finally, once campaigning started last Monday, we tried to deliver our message to every student on campus. Personal and listserv emails. Yelling with a giant poster near the Science Center. Knocking on nearly every dorm room door in the College. Further, to validate out candidates platforms, we’ve tried to reach out to the wide diversity of student groups on campus. We sit down with the group – often in a debate with the other tickets – and then hope to get an endorsement from their group if they see our ticket as being the most effective way forward for their group and the student body. But regardless of how we push our message, it’s a lot of talking, meeting people, and getting psyched! Everyday through this period, we’re required to submit finance reports on our spending: all elections are funded by the UC up to $400 minus any fines levied against the campaign for a wide variety of violations like forgetting to include voting information on campaign materials or talking to student groups a few days too early. All three of the tickets running have fines running against us – the Election Commission is strict!
We’ve finally transitioning into the GOTV (“Get out the Vote”) period where we’re emailing all of our friends individually – collectively reaching thousands of people – and getting them to cast their ballots online during the election period ending Thursday. That evening, we’ll all gather in a room and hopefully see the ideal result of our efforts: a personal visit from the Election Commission Chair and Harvard Glee Club.
We’ve got some worthy opponents this year: the Coe|Li and Jones|Davis tickets. The latter pair, running with the 90s-era website http://jonesdaviswinnersof2010ucelection.info/ and slogan “Until we Run Out of Money, or Get Removed from Office,” has offered a campaign centered on direct democracy; they already held a vote on what to do with the remaining $20.10 of their campaign funds. The student body’s decision? Buy a small animal. They actually did it, buying a Cuban Tree Frog. Some have called them the “joke ticket” running for humor rather than votes. I’ll just call them inspiring.