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USAC Elections 2024SJP and UC Divest Coalition Demonstrations at UCLA

USAC’s online election causes candidates to rethink campaign tactics

(Daily Bruin file photo)

By Queenie Xiang

May 6, 2020 8:47 p.m.

Following the transition to an online election, candidates running for the 2020 undergraduate student government altered their campaigning strategies because of changes in campaigning regulations.

The Undergraduate Students Association Council 2020 election is underway. Voting began Monday and will end Friday. After UCLA transitioned to online classes, the USA Elections Board had to amend many sections of the election code to accommodate for the new online election.

USA Elections Board Chair Navi Sidhu said that social media regulations had to be especially adjusted to allow candidates to use platforms outside of Instagram and Twitter.

“(We had to) change rules so that the elections wouldn’t be in direct violation of our guiding principles,” said Sidhu, a fourth-year psychobiology student. “We’re amending regulations as we need to be able to support candidates. … Candidates have to really up their presence on social media and come up with creative ways to engage with voters on virtual platforms”

Sidhu added that one of the elections board’s main priorities in amending these regulations was to engage students and inform them of the running candidates.

The elections board moved up the start date for campaigning by two weeks, allowing candidates to run for a total of four weeks.

To help inform students of the candidates, the elections board decided to keep the scheduled candidate debate which was co-hosted by the Daily Bruin on April 30.

[Related link: USAC candidates discuss referendums, use of student fees in online debate]

However, unlike previous elections, the elections board canceled the “Meet the Candidate” event, where students could meet candidates and ballot proposition representatives.

Sidhu said an online version of the event would not have been conducive to engagement because of the number of individual video discussion rooms required, and the board did not know how many people would be interested in attending. Instead, the elections board created more ways to present the candidates and raise student awareness about the candidates online, like creating interactive websites where candidates answer questions asked by students.

Despite these drastic changes, candidates remain optimistic. Many candidates have come up with new and creative ways to engage voters, such as creating short videos on TikTok or streaming on Instagram Live. At least two candidates had celebrities appear in videos about the election.

Some of the candidates expressed mixed feelings about these changes, especially about the strict guidelines for posting on social media. The guidelines state that candidates must end every social media post with “#MyVoiceMyVote #BruinVoices @uclausaeboard For more information on USAC Elections, visit uclaelectionsboard.org.”

Breeze Velazquez, a candidate for the Academic Affairs commissioner, said it’s very unclear to her what hashtags need to be included with every social media post.

“I’m so confused because I see people post ‘My voice, my vote’, ‘My vote, my voice’, ‘Your voice, your vote.’ … What is the hashtag?” said Velazquez, a second-year public affairs student. “I got sanctioned (when I reposted someone) because I guess someone reported the fact that I hadn’t written a hashtag.”

Velazquez also added that she thinks the two-week extension for campaigning was too much time.

“People are going to get annoyed seeing the same thing and people all the time,” Velazquez said. “And if you think about it, presenting everyone at the same time (in the “For the People” slate) is difficult to separate (us). I don’t want to post and spam people.”

However, Carl Illustrisimo, a candidate for external vice president, said that he thinks starting the campaign earlier was the correct choice.

Illustrisimo, a third-year sociology student, said the extended period helped candidates and voters transition to the new, online interface.

Similarly, Aidan Arasasingham, another candidate for external vice president, said that his team is using the extended campaign period to broaden the scope of what it means to campaign.

“Ideally all of us, whether they are candidates, or referenda, or student voters in general, should be focused on building voter turnout,” said Arasasingham, a third-year global studies student. “The additional time really allowed us to really focus on engaging new voters who haven’t voted before.”

Students are able to vote through the MyUCLA website until Friday.

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