The Cavalier Daily
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UBE should regulate campaign finance

Merit, not cash, must determine student election outcomes

The role of campaign expenditures in student elections has attracted significant attention on Grounds. A recent University Board of Elections interim expenditure report projects student elections to cost up to $6,800 this year, a stark contrast to last year’s total of $2,873. With Kelsey Kilgore’s projected $2,490 campaign expenses, the race for Student Council president makes up a large portion of these costs. As elections come to a close, it is important for the University community to reflect upon the negative impact such excessive campaign expenses might have on the integrity of student self-governance.

Sarah Kenny, Kilgore’s opponent, told the Cavalier Daily her projected expenses of $200 listed on the report is no longer accurate, since she will be spending more money to compete with her opponent. Meanwhile, Kilgore stated she estimates her actual spending to stay below $1,500 — which is larger than last year’s total spending for all StudCo races combined. What has traditionally been a financially modest race based on merits and qualifications has turned into a race based on who can buy the most votes. It is important students vote for whom they believe is the most qualified to serve as their Student Council president, not for the candidate who bought them the most food.

UBE’s current policy on campaign expenditures is clear: no caps. This policy inherently disadvantages lower-income students who wish to get involved in student government. While the board does offer grants to those with limited sources of funding, this is insufficient in leveling the playing field against candidates with access to greater financial resources. As a result, the concerns of low-income students may not be appropriately represented by their student government.

Kilgore argues that, as an outsider, she is forced to invest more money in her campaign to improve name recognition. Rather than gaining recognition through lavish campaign spending, however, outsiders should run productive, fair and cost-effective campaigns based on promoting their caliber and distinction. With no limit on campaign expenditures, a candidate could distract from their lack of knowledge and qualifications with cash.

UBE should look into ways in which it can closely regulate and monitor student campaign expenses in future elections. Introducing expenditure caps will prevent students from attempting to win votes through big spending. Kilgore’s remarkable use of money in a campaign for a student-elected position has brought attention to the influential role it can play in student elections. Without strict regulation and oversight from UBE on campaign expenses, the integrity of our University’s system of student self-governance will be threatened. 

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