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The Daily Tar Heel

Students hope for less drama in 2012 SBP election

The student body election season kicks off today and members of student government have their fingers crossed, hoping for a drama-free race for student body president.

But the memory of last year’s campaign, which was defined by verbal spars and lawsuits, remains fresh in the minds of many students.

Sophomore Nikki Eskenasi said she was shocked by the parallels between the negativity of last year’s candidates and national politics.

“We all know this happens on a national scale, but it kind of makes you think if it’s happening at this level, politics is kind of hopeless,” she said.

“These people are supposed to be representing our student body. They should have more respect for each other.”

Controversy last year included calls for a candidate to resign, a disqualification hearing for another and a host of accusations in between. The election included the exchange of venomous text messages between two candidates, delayed results and the resignation of the speaker of Student Congress to pursue a lawsuit against the Board of Elections.

Sophomore Virginia Montes said she was so annoyed by last year’s candidates she chose to vote only in the general election and not in the runoff election.

“They need to focus more on what the student body wants and less on bringing up the flaws of other candidates,” she said.

Participation in student body president elections has decreased consistently during the past three years.

About 24 percent of the student body voted in last year’s general election, totaling only 6,800 votes. About 7,400 students voted in 2010.

Turnout was even lower for the runoff elections. About 4,000 students voted in last year’s runoff, down 27 percent from the year before.

Ian Lee, who finished second to Student Body President Mary Cooper in the run-off election, said the decrease in voter participation has more to do with campaign strategies than voter apathy. Lee is a member of The Daily Tar Heel’s editorial board.

Much like the national elections, Lee said, students can become disenchanted with their candidates.

“Candidates should not make the campaign about themselves,” he said.

Lee’s campaign was the focus of some controversy throughout last year’s election season, as his opponents questioned the legitimacy of his candidacy, since he was student body secretary at the time.

“Make sure you’re running because you really want to make Carolina better and you believe the things you are bringing to the table are the best way to make a difference.”

Cooper echoed Lee’s advice to future candidates.

“I approached my campaign with the philosophy that every day is a new day, and I’m going to work hard and meet the people who are going to vote for me,” she said.

“It’s about establishing trust and making sure that no matter what problem is coming down the road, you can trust that person to handle it.”

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