Student Body elections proceed despite challenges, campaigning and voting transition to an online format

Before COVID-19 became a pandemic, six students decided to run for student body president and vice-president. Now, the virus is not about to stop them.

Weeks ago, talk of an extended spring break and moving school online sparked anxiety in college students as they wondered what effect COVID-19 would have on their classes, extracurricular activities and events. Liberty was one of the last universities to transition its classes to an online format. 

Elections Commissioner Evan Kluth said despite most students being absent from campus, student body elections will continue to be held through in an online format. There are three campaigns running on the ticket for president and vice president.

The original election was scheduled for April 8, but has been moved to April 15. The extension provides time for SGA, election officers and candidates to completely convert voting and campaigning to a digital format. 

Kluth said there are two main challenges with the move — the debate and the ability of candidates to come up to him directly to ask questions. 

“It’s been tricky to communicate with all of the candidates at once,” Kluth said. “I know you can do group emails, but it’s not the same as being with someone in person.”

Candidates will now campaign completely online and on social media. Despite reworking their campaigns, Kluth said the students running for office have adapted well.

“They’ve been really flexible, they’ve been troopers,” Kluth said. “There’s been a lot of confusing emails and changing plans as various people on my end have different ideas of what should be done. But it’s been good, they’ve been flexible.”

Student Body Vice President Esther Lusenge said she and President Derek Rockey are doing what they can to make sure the candidates are able to effectively communicate and take care of students. 

“We’re trying to make sure the next student body president and vice president really represent the student body,” Lusenge said. “That’s going to involve us looking for new and honestly better ways to communicate their full messages about their platform.”

Lusenge and Rockey said despite the election being moved online, there is still potential for students to be excited about voting, but it depends on the candidates.

“It’s really going to depend on candidates’ platforms and what excites the students about their platforms,” Rockey said. “We’re looking to the candidates to have exciting platforms that’ll get students to go the extra mile, to get out and vote, to advertise on their social media, to be excited about it.”

Lusenge said the challenges faced by candidates provide an opportunity for them to show how they handle adversity.

“In the midst of (an) unprecedented time, it’s a good opportunity for students who are running for office to leverage this moment to show they are willing to lead when there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Lusenge said. 

Rockey hopes that through the changes to the process that the election will still have a good voter turnout. 

“Although the voting will change, the job of student body president and vice president will not be changing,” Rockey said. “Students still need to be represented, so we hope that their desire to vote will not change.”
The results of the election will be announced April 15, the same day as the election on the SGA’s social media platforms.

Slaughter is a news reporter. Follow her on Twitter.

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