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The Daily Tar Heel

Student Elections Bring New Technology, New Rules

The new system will allow students to vote via Student Central using their PID and PAC numbers.

Jeremy Tuchmayer, chairman of the Board of Elections, said he hopes the new procedure will eliminate problems common in past elections.

"It will be easier to enforce rules with online voting than in previous years when we used scantrons," he said.

In modifying the rules, the Board of Elections focused on computer labs as polling sites as well as mass e-mails. "We basically translated previous restrictions concerning polling sites to fit this year's situation," Tuchmayer said. "No campaigning will be allowed within 50 feet or visible sight or earshot of computer labs."

Computer labs are considered to be any location with four or more computers. Tuchmayer said these rules will not apply to campaigning in residence halls, though the halls' computer labs are still off limits.

"When considering restrictions on dorm rooms, we made the distinction between public and private places," he said. "If we counted individuals' homes as polling sites, we would be invading student privacy."

Tuchmayer said that because Student Congress bylaws view e-mail as a free speech issue, the Board of Elections placed few restrictions on campaign e-mail content. "We only require candidates to identify themselves in the subject line of the e-mail so that it can be deleted if unwanted," Tuchmayer said.

The Board of Elections also will monitor the ability of candidates to send e-mail to closed listservs.

Failure to meet the rules will result in warnings, punitive fines or, in some cases, disqualification from the election. "We have a broad range of capabilities to enforce these rules, and we will also ensure that candidates take corrective measures for any violations," Tuchmayer said.

Annie Peirce, candidate for student body president, said complying with the guidelines can be difficult and that sometimes erring on the side of caution is best. "It's really hard because you just don't know where there are four or more computers," she said. "If there is any doubt, I don't put anything up."

Student body president candidate Eric Johnson considers the e-mail restrictions to be fair. "The good thing about (requiring candidates to put their name in the subject line) is that they claim ownership of the e-mail," he said. "This also gives students the heads up about whether or not they really want to read it."

Some students said the benefits of online voting for the student body outweigh any inconveniences to candidates caused by the guidelines.

Emily Crites, a freshman sociology major from Sylva, said the new system is logical and will boost voting numbers on campus. "Pretty much everything is done online these days, and most students are online at least once a day anyway.

"If all they have to do to vote is log on Student Central, I think a lot of students who otherwise wouldn't vote will participate in the election," she said. "The restrictions may be hard for the candidates to follow, but I think it will be worth it."

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