Beyond the usual the vote-for-me posters, the handshakes, the debates, and of course, the smiles, Student Assembly candidates revolutionized the election this year as they redefined their campaigns through the innovative use of new media such as Facebook, YouTube, and Blitzmail.
“It’s really the first year that Facebook groups have taken off,” said Sara del Nido ’08, the chair of the Elections and Planning Advisory Committee that oversaw this year’s SA election. Candidates created their own Facebook groups or online communities that invited students to join and show their support for the candidate. Beyond housing a community of supporters, the Facebook groups also served as an effective medium for candidates to showcase their campaign platforms. Nafeesa Remtilla’s group attracted the most members, reaching over 200 members by Election Day. Remtilla won the vice presidential election this year.
The Student Assembly presidential election also saw this year’s candidates use YouTube for the first time in Dartmouth’s history. Candidates Lee Cooper ’09 and Molly Bode ’09 created and uploaded short, effective campaign videos on YouTube, making it easy for any student with computer access to watch.
Candidates also used Blitzmail extensively this year, essentially bombarding potential voters with “vote-for-me” emails detailing their stance on student issues and concerns, and reminding students to vote for them on Election Day. Students reportedly received over ten emails a day reminding them to vote, and some students say they received four emails from the same candidate in one day.
Candidates saw mixed results from their use of new media. While Lee Cooper’s YouTube video was better received by voters, Molly Bode won the presidential election. However, it is important to note that both candidates’ videos went largely unwatched by voters. Molly Bode and Nafeesa Remtilla attracted the most members to their Facebook groups this year and won their respective elections, a possible sign that Facebook group membership may serve as an accurate indicator of a candidate’s popularity among voters.
Let’s listen to what the candidates and voters had to say about the role of new media in the elections:
As the video declares, because all the winners of this year’s election used a variety of new media to showcase their campaign platforms, we’ll likely see these media used in future elections. The accessibility of Facebook and Blitzmail make them easy supplements to future campaigns. However, the logistics of getting voters to watch posted campaign videos on YouTube may deter future candidates from using YouTube until a creative solution is found.