Despite the University of Mississippi campus being closed for the foreseeable future, Associated Student Body elections will proceed — albeit with considerable changes. Candidates for executive offices cannot pass out stickers, campaign in front of their signs, walk through residence halls or Greek houses, and they can’t hold campaign rallies. Instead, candidates must submit to a new reality: a virtual business row.
Campaigning for Associated Student Body (ASB) executive offices and Senate positions will now be done exclusively online and via social media. ASB Attorney General Austin Fiala, whose office oversees campus elections, said the global pandemic necessitated changes in the ways that candidates are permitted to campaign.
“Seeing as how social media is literally the only medium and way in which students are going to be able to campaign, there is going to be significantly fewer campaign regulations,” Fiala said. “We really are trying to relax a lot of the previously existing social media regulations, and also to add new permissions, not prohibitions, but new permissions to the social media regulations.”
Thursday afternoon, Fiala released an opinion clarifying these changes. Candidates still cannot send voters unsolicited text messages or phone calls, but they may create official campaign listservs to email potential voters. Candidates may also directly campaign through direct messages on social media if the candidate uses their “official campaign account.”
Additionally, candidates cannot campaign in online Zoom courses. Candidates can also still ‘boost’ Facebook posts and Snapchat filters — a popular tool in earlier campaigns — but the lack of university students in a geo-locatable area may drive candidates away from this option.
“We understand that this is a difficult time for students, and we do not want this already-difficult time to be exacerbated more by a not-thought-out, not-free and not-fair ASB election process,” Fiala said.
This unique election has also impacted the number of candidates running for the six ASB executive offices. ASB President is the only contested office, and juniors Anna Hall and Joshua Mannery will square off in a race expected to have low voter turnout because of the circumstances. Fiala said ASB understands this and are working on multiple ‘get out the vote’ initiatives to combat it.
“ASB is going to be having an election page on our website that essentially has all of the candidates information collected, as well as links to their different social media accounts and websites on it,” Fiala said. He also added that they’re working with university communications on sending a campus-wide email on election day to remind students to vote, and ASB plans on hosting Facebook or Zoom town halls where candidates can respond to voter questions instead of a televised debate.
There are seven candidates running for the six ASB executive offices:
ASB President: Anna Hall, Joshua Mannery
ASB Vice President: Abby Johnston
ASB Secretary: Katelin Hayward
ASB Treasurer: Gianna Schuetz
ASB Attorney General: Jake Fanning
ASB Judicial Chair: Gabby Hunter