The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday December 5th

Web petitions not a ‘game-changer’ in SBP elections

For student body president candidates, it seems technology just can’t replace face-to-face interaction.

Though candidates were allowed to collect petition signatures online for the first time this year, all three still collected the large majority of their signatures the old-fashioned way — with paper and pen.

“The limited amount of interaction you can get is a huge drawback to it,” said Tim Longest.

Longest collected a mere 3 percent of his signatures online. The other candidates — Calvin Lewis Jr. and Will Leimenstoll — each collected less than 15 percent of their signatures online.

Lewis said online petitions were most useful early in the week when being the first candidate to reach students was key.

Leimenstoll, who collected the most signatures overall, said the online option served as a useful tool but could not replace the paper method.

“I don’t think it’s a game-changer,” he said.

Longest agreed.

“We prefer a personal, hands-on approach,” he said.

Longest said in-person signature collection served as a testament to his team’s hard work.

“It also becomes a question of the amount of work that you want to put into your campaign,” he said. “It was a lot of work for our people to go door-to-door.”

That’s not to say setting up signature-collecting websites was a waste of time, candidates said.

Leimenstoll said signing petitions in person is difficult for those who don’t pass through the main campus on a regular basis, like nursing students.

“It was definitely a great option for students who were studying abroad,” he added.

Lewis said he wishes he had publicized his website more.

“I didn’t really push it out to my friends the way I should have,” he said.

“There are some people who just don’t stop in the Pit,” Lewis said. “They just want to go from point A to point B.”

Last year, just one candidate for student body president — Ian Lee — collected signatures online. Nearly 20 percent of his petition signatures came from his website, he said in an email.

Lee is a member of The Daily Tar Heel’s editorial board.

“When he did it, I think everyone was just very confused because it was so out-of-the-box,” said Shruthi Sundaram, chairwoman of the Board of Elections.

Designing an online petitioning system was up to the candidates. The Board of Elections did not design a program for signature collection, Sundaram said.

Contact the University Editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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