So you are running (or thinking about running) for an elected position somewhere at York. Good for you. Congratulations. We have a saying at The Centre for Student Community & Leadership Development about standing as a candidate: “You might not win, but you can’t lose.”
But before you head off on the campaign trail, remember these three things:
1. Know the rules.
2. Know the rules.
3. Know the rules.
All the tips and helpful hints in the world won’t help if you do something that gets you thrown out of the election. You have to know what is allowed. You have to be sure that what you do will not lead to disqualification. Know who the Chief Returning Officer (CRO) is and what hours they keep. That way, if you want to do something out of the ordinary, something you don’t see covered in the election rules, ask your CRO before you do it.
You might also want to talk to your professors and let them know you are running in a student election. Let them know that you might miss or be late for a class since you don’t always control the schedule of candidate events and they need to be aware of this.
1. Use your networks of friends and acquaintances.
- Announce your campaign and platform (who you are, what you stand for, why you’re running, why you’d be a good choice for the position) to the people closest to you first.
- Get feedback. Ask people what they’d like to see from the position you are running for.
- Ask for help. Ask people to tell people. Ask them to invite you to events, meetings, etc.
2. Use organizations that you know and that know you.
- Attend meetings and events for the clubs, groups that you’re already a part of to let people know you are a candidate and to discuss your platform. Don’t skip them because you are too busy campaigning. An important part of campaigning is to motive those who know you best.
3. Create opportunities to speak at events.
- Talk to people who know lots of people. Go to meetings, social events, cultural events, etc. that you might not normally attend. Have organizers and leaders introduce you to as many people as they can.
4. Attend every all candidate’s forum/debate.
- No matter the attendance, it is a chance to hone your message and speak to motivated students. If they attend a meeting they are likely to vote. Even if they are opposed to your candidacy, you may at least neutralize them so they won’t actively campaign against you.
5. Classroom speaking.
- You MUST get permission from the professor/instructor and you need to be very brief.
- It’s good because real students see you.
- Be succinct, genuine, and encourage participation (voting etc.).
- Practice making a few important points in under a minute.
- Repeat your name as often as you can (without sounding like a crazy person).
6. Talk to all the media you can.
- For one thing, it’s free. But you must be confident in your platform.
- If you don’t know the answer to a question say so (remember: “it’s much better to be silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”) Send them media releases. Let them know where you’ll be and who you’ll be talking to. If possible, use questions they ask to reiterate the main planks of your campaign but don’t stretch things too far. If they ask what your favourite ice cream flavour is, don’t use it as an opportunity to condemn, for example, the tax on textbooks.
7. Create small handouts with your website address, email contact, your name and face on them.
- Hand them out to everybody you speak to. Invite them to “find out more.”
8. Respond to criticism in a measured way.
- Some people are not going to like what you have to say or how you say it. The best way to respond to them is to be diplomatic and polite – even if they are neither. When people see you remain calm they will be impressed. You can practice this with a friend who can play the role of an aggressive opponent.
- Use language that will diffuse a tense situation such as “I respect your opinion on the issue, I simply don’t share it.” “You are entitled to disagree with me.” “Let’s focus on ideas.” “The voter’s will decide whose right on this.”
- Do not attack the person; do not suggest ulterior motives; do not comment on who they know, how they look, or their level of intelligence. Stick to the issue. Debate the pros and cons of the position being considered.
1. A functional website.
- Something clean, easy to navigate; one where it’s easy to find who you are, what you stand for, why you’re running, and why you’d be a good choice for the position.
- Use the same few points you make when speaking in classroom and meeting for your icons.
- A good picture of you up front. Other pictures of you with friendly looking and diverse York students.
- A way to reach you that is easy and set up for the election.
- Don’t use your regular personal email.
- Your schedule of election appearances, and pictures of where you’ve been.
- Check out some candidate sites from other universities, like these two from UBC
- Good for name and face recognition.
- If you have a slogan, use it. Make sure it is memorable; be concise. (e.g., “Make it better.” “Students want change.” “Let’s stay on track.”)
- Make sure your references (including acronyms) are well known and that your language is inclusive and inoffensive.
- If you use a photo, make it a good, professional-looking one. There is nothing wrong with looking the best that you can.
- Use bright colours and fonts that are easily read at a distance. Don’t use yellow or gold lettering on white paper.
- Don’t count on posters doing the job for you. Remember that most people are so bombarded with posters they don’t actually “see” them. It’s called “poster blindness.”
- It’s all about appearance. What stands out, what will reach the maximum number of potential voters? Figure that out and your banner will be a good investment.
4. Advertising in the campus press.
- It will reach motivated voters. People who pay attention to the paper vote.
- Make sure that your ad doesn’t try to do to much: just your name, face, and your easy to remember website URL.
- The Excalibur may be beyond the budget of your campaign; college papers are cheaper.
In addition you can use:
- Group emails/message board
1. Don’t be overly complex/overly simplistic.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be easy to understand. Use the appropriate place (like a website) to get in-depth about a subject.
- Sometimes less is more. That’s called being concise and coherent. Sometimes less is simply less. That’s called not knowing what you’re talking about.
2. Don’t use empty rhetoric.
- Avoid clichés like the plague. Try not to parrot well-know speeches and positions. Be your own person and say things in your own way. Don’t try to be something you are not. Ask questions; ask what people think of your ideas.
3. Don’t attack rivals; attack ideas
- Being passionate is okay. Being over the top and suggesting that anybody who disagrees with you is insane/evil/a threat to democracy is not okay. People will not respond favourably to your tearing down of opponents; it often backfires and may lose you votes.
4. Don’t try to turn around an ocean liner as if it were a jet ski
- Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t say that electing you will make the sun rise and the birds sing.
- Pick some issues that you can work on, stress their importance, and be confident that you can follow through on making things better.
- People tune out when you promise something they know is impossible.
5. Don’t deliberately trying to provoke a negative response
6. Don’t use material that doesn’t reach people.
- Using the wrong colour on print material, (such as yellow ink on white paper) of having a web site that isn’t full/hard to navigate is a waste of time and effort.
7. Don’t put yourself and your material in the wrong place.
- Don’t spend your time at a place you likely supporters never go.
- It’s also no use putting up posters or leaving campaign material in places your potential voters never go.
- Be strategic. Use your resources wisely. Don’t litter.
8. Don’t have a campaign that is unfocused, confusing, or cliquish.
- You can’t be for or against everything. Pick and stick.
- Make sure you don’t contradict yourself.
- Even if you have strong support from certain voters, make sure you reach out to all of them.
1. Good Friends.
2. Good Ideas.
3. Good Luck.
Feedback: Election Review Officer
Student Community & Leadership Development (SC&LD) | Tel: (416) 736-5144 | S172 Ross Building
A division of Student Community Development (SCD)