A Facebook post made by a Undergraduate Student Government presidential candidate that talks about the ticket’s broad goals and ambitions for Ohio State, linked to a donation page that will be used for campaign funds, is not improper because it is not overtly asking for votes in the upcoming campaign, the campaign manager said.
The official start date for USG campaigns is Feb. 22 at 8 p.m. A video posted to Facebook Wednesday night by Stephen Post, a third-year in economics and political science, included a link to a website where donations could be made to Post and his running mate, Lauren Todd to support their “mission,” although the post and video never explicitly mentions USG, the presidential campaign, or voting.
“We never said what the campaign is for or anything else,” said campaign manager Matt Barnett, a fourth-year in finance. He did, however, acknowledge to The Lantern that the funds would be used for the ticket’s presidential campaign.
Barnett cited subsection i of the campaigning bylaws which states, “Candidates, candidate teams, and slates may ask, verbally, electronically, or in writing, for assistance in campaigning from individuals or student groups at any time.”
According to the USG bylaws, “Candidates, teams and slates may not overtly act to gain votes, or solicit for votes before the approved campaigning season begins.”
The Facebook post made by Post, who is officially listed as a candidate along with Todd, a fifth-year in English, contains vague goals and language, such as the following:
“We have great strides to make in making a diploma more affordable, campus more inclusive, and providing more opportunities than we’ve been offered. We have a long way to go, but we’re only getting started.”
According to Barnett, listing those goals aren’t the same as soliciting for votes, and are similar to candidates asking for people to sign their petitions to be eligible to run.
“We didn’t say anything asking for votes,” he said. “We are allowed to raise money … We never asked for your vote, we never asked for anything other than your support to help us improve Ohio State, which is not illegal.”
According to an additional subsection within the bylaws, campaign materials, including a website, may be produced prior to the official start date. However, these materials are not to be distributed or publicly available before campaigning begins.
Another presidential ticket, Andrew Jackson and Sophie Chang, were brought to the Judicial Panel in December regarding a violation of the campaign bylaws. The pair had made a private webpage, more explicitly titled than Post and Todd’s fundraiser, called “Vote Andrew and Sophie.”
While the website was proved to be unavailable publicly and only accessible through an original link — unlike Post and Todd’s page — it was deemed as an act to gain votes prematurely based on its title and under the reasoning that, “The link itself has the capability of being shared with any individual,” according to the Dec. 6 brief from the Judicial Panel.
Barnett said he was aware that his campaign’s move would likely be challenged by other campaigns with USG’s Judicial Panel, but he wasn’t worried.
“This isn’t something any other campaign has done before, but we are still completely within the bylaws,” he said.