ASG election rules mean shorter campaigns

The 2009 Associated Student Government elections are more like a 100-meter dash than a marathon. Candidates have two and a half weeks to get their names out, talk about issues and convince students to vote for them April 15.

This week, candidates gathered signatures for petitions to run as the first official part of the election process. Petitions are due Friday at 5 p.m.

Candidates must collect at least 200 – but no more than 300 – signatures from Northwestern undergraduate students, said Matt Bellassai, current ASG senator and presumptive candidate for student life director. The only other known candidate for that office, Weinberg freshman Visraant Iyer, was forced to drop out of the race due to a personal conflict.

“It’s pretty straightforward,” said Bellassai, a Weinberg freshman. “I remind everyone this is just to put me on the ballot. At this point, I’m just saying, ‘I’m running, can you sign this?'”

ASG Election Commissioner Paul David Shrader said the 200-signature minimum is “not a tremendous amount to get.” The Weinberg senior said it’s best for candidates to simply approach people and remind them they aren’t actually voting for the candidate.

“These petitions don’t say that an individual running for a position supports the candidate, but that it’s a viable and appropriate candidate for that position,” Shrader said. “And it’s important to make it clear to those signing a petition.”

Petitions were not available to candidates until the start of Spring Quarter, though informal campaigning started last quarter, said Jack Eichorst, campaign manager for presumptive ASG presidential candidate Bill Pulte. During the informal campaigning period, candidates could not gather signatures or advertise.

Despite the early, informal state of the campaign, candidates are still subject to the ASG election guidelines, the repeated violation of which can lead to the ASG Election Commission taking candidates off the ballot. One addendum to the guidelines states, “No campaign solicitation may occur at Norris.”

Though Eichorst said Norris University Center has been a good place for Pulte to meet voters, he qualified that Pulte was largely meeting people he already knew.

While Shrader said he would have to check with the elections committee as to how to interpret “solicitation,” he said that he felt Pulte’s situation, and even petitioning in Norris, didn’t qualify as such.

“What I told Bill was we really don’t want campaigning to happen in Norris,” he said. “However, in terms of getting petitions signed, it’s not taking anything from that, it’s not agreeing to support the candidate.'”

According to the section in the 2008-09 Campus Publicity Policies and Procedures entitled “Solicitation in Norris University Center,” one rule states, “Patrons must initiate conversations. Organizations should not approach patrons to hand out materials or petitions or to initiate conversations.”

Non-verbal campaigning kicks off on April 6. This includes printed and electronic media, such as flyers and Web sites.

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