The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday December 3rd

Board of Elections votes in favor of online petitioning

In a unanimous vote Sunday night, the Board of Elections decided that online petitioning for signatures is legal under the Student Code.

The board heard the case after student body president candidate Ian Lee launched a signature- gathering website Thursday that drew complaints from several opponents.

“The Student Code does not prohibit online signature gathering, so Mr. Lee will be allowed to collect online signatures so long as they’re legally collected,” said Andrew Phillips, the board’s chairman.

Phillips said the board’s decision will stand only for this year. He said Student Congress would have to change the Student Code to specifically prohibit online petitions.

At 5 p.m. today, student body president candidates must submit the minimum of 1,250 unique signatures needed for a place on the Feb. 8 ballot. Candidates who fall short of the 1,250 threshold have three days — until Friday — to meet it.

Rick Ingram, a candidate who is the target of several investigations, said he was frustrated by the decision.

“I’m disappointed by their ruling because I feel like they’re ignoring their own regulations,” he said.

Brooklyn Stephens, another candidate, echoed Ingram’s frustration.

“I just feel like it’s kind of unfair for the other candidates who didn’t know it was legal prior to the ruling,” Stephens said.

Candidates Dylan Gilroy and Mary Cooper, who had voiced concern that the online petitions allow petitioning in prohibited areas, accepted the decision.

“My understanding is that the board was unanimous in voting this way, so there was clearly a lot of thought that went into it,” Cooper said.

Lee said the website has helped him reach more students, but it has not replaced the paper petitions.

“The idea really came out of the thought of how we could more conveniently reach students, in particular graduate and professional students and part-time students who may not be on campus all the time,” Lee said.

To publicize the website, Lee’s campaign used Twitter, Facebook and e-mails targeted mostly at graduate and professional students.

Monday night, the board discussed other complaints about Lee sending unsolicited e-mails. At press time, the decision was not available.

The board also investigated Lee in December regarding a conflict between his position as student body secretary and a potential student body president candidate.

“Students who hold that office, so long as they don’t use the privileges of that office, are allowed to run,” Phillips said.

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