Photo courtesy of MCPS
In light of school closures being extended for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year, the MCPS Student Member of the Board (SMOB) elections originally scheduled for April 22 will now occur online on May 20 from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. All eligible MCPS students received an election ballot with voting instructions through email on Monday, May 18. The election date was first extended to make sure the candidates, juniors Nick Asante and Vicky Kidder, could adequately reach out to students despite school closures.
Election integrity was one of the primary issues the Special Elections Committee, which coordinates a large part of the SMOB elections, had to address.
“Integrity during this unprecedented time was the Special Elections Committee’s highest concern, and I’m proud of the work we were able to do with such a short notice,” senior Lambia Katsigiannakis, head of the Special Elections Committee, said.
The online elections may also depress turnout. Turnout for in-person elections is usually high because students are given a designated time during the school day to vote.
“It’s not mandatory, but it almost feels like it is,” freshman Shairee Arora said. However, if conducted remotely, some students may not have access to the proper technology, forget to check their emails or choose not to vote at all.
“We hope people will vote on May 20 with the code that will be provided to them via their school emails,” Katsigiannakis said. “If everyone votes, we are expecting an outcome as any year prior.”
The quarantine, and the ensuing switch to online elections, has affected the SMOB campaigns as well. For one, not being able to meet in person could be detrimental to students’ understanding of the candidates’ platforms. Thus, they have had to pivot towards alternative methods to connect with students.
“In the past, the main component of campaigning for SMOB has been in-person visits,” Asante said. “I’ve had to shift the basis of my campaign to social media, and it’s definitely a challenge trying to reach the masses because you’re limited to the people following you.”
Asante is also trying to target students he didn’t get the chance to meet face-to-face with. “It has been a difficult task, but I’ve had help from friends who go to other schools and they’re reaching out to their individual channels to campaign for me,” he said.
Aside from having to change campaign strategies, Asante said that the message of his campaign has also had to change.
“As a result of the pandemic that the world is currently going through, it has become very apparent to me that next year’s focus should be on rebuilding,” he said. He now hopes to focus on tackling the opportunity gap and strengthening the county curriculum. “I want to remind students that this is definitely a difficult time for everyone, but we’ll get through it. Slowly but surely we will rebuild and we will see all the progress we hope to.”