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Elections Rules Hold Candidates To Tight Budgets

Amid the hustle and bustle of student elections campaigns, some voters might not realize the financial measures taken to win their votes.

Running for a student body office is not as simple -- or as cheap -- as it sometimes seems.

According to Board of Elections rules, every candidate is limited by money caps. Candidates for student body and Carolina Athletic Association presidents are allowed the heftiest budgets, with $500 limits.

According to Title VI of the Student Government General Elections Laws, failure to adhere to this policy will disqualify candidates from the elections process.

"The maximum amount of money that candidates can use was determined by Student Congress some years ago, according to the population size of the voters and other factors," said Board of Elections Chairman Jeremy Tuchmayer.

Tuchmayer said the Honor Code plays a big part in the elections process. After elections, candidates must provide a detailed financial report and submit receipts from all expenditures used to fund their campaigns.

If their expenditures exceed 105 percent of their campaign limit -- in this case, $500 -- candidates will be disqualified from their races and could be charged with punitive fines.

The Board of Elections and the public eye are responsible for monitoring campaigns. After the election, candidates and students have the right to request and question the total expenses of each candidate.

Most candidates spend money on fliers, posters, banners, photocopies, buttons and other propaganda. Student body president candidate Annie Peirce has used her money to fund banners, posters and other things to get her name out to the public.

"I agree that money is important to the campaign because your name has to be out there to be considered realistically," she said. "However, the rest is up to you."

Student body president candidate Eric Johnson also said money can have a strong impact on voters. "Money is an issue for a campaign. It is a tremendous advantage because campaign materials, such as buttons and things, are going to take money."

But some candidates find that money to fund their campaigns is hard to come by -- especially if it is from their own pockets.

Student body president candidate Correy Campbell has spent only $30 on his total campaign because he thinks posters and flyers are superficial and do not define the overall candidate. He says his campaign is "not a lot of the hype, just a lot of heart."

Other candidates express concern that money can be a limitation for effective campaigns and have explored other alternatives to reach voters.

Student body president candidate Caleb Ritter said he already has spent $200 out of his own pocket on paint, banners, buttons, staples and other materials, but he added that the $500 cap puts those under financial restrictions at a disadvantage.

"I can't do as much as I would like to," he said. "The people that do have a lot of money can have better quality things to reach out to their voters."

Matt Jones, campaign manager for student body president candidate Justin Young, said their campaign has posted a Web site, which has allowed Young to save money.

"We have spent half of the money already, but we have online media," Jones said. "Thousands of hits on the Web site have been made by students, and it has been an easy way for us to reach our voters."

In addition, candidates who are on financial aid have the option of applying for reimbursement or qualifying for subsidies paid by the University if they receive at least 7 percent of the total votes cast on Election Day.

But CAA presidential candidate Michael Songer said reimbursement is not enough. "I think that it is unfortunate that the University doesn't finance the campaign," Songer said.

Besides any financial limitations and problems involved in campaigns, student body president and CAA presidential candidates seem to be in positive spirits about the overall campaign.

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Ritter said, "It is a good experience."

 

The University Editor can be reached at udesk@unc.edu.

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