From May 25th to May 29th, WCI held its first online co-mayor election week. While in years prior students have been able to use a very small amount of social media for campaigns to run for a role on ABCD, this year the election took place entirely online.
While Will A. and Sara H. were the successful candidates, it is important to consider the events the lead up to this result. (FJORD interviewed Will, Sara, Arya P. and Thomas V. by video and in writing during the week of the campaign.)
While there are numerous social media platforms out there that anyone can access, the most statistically popular one is Facebook. However, it is not very popular with people of high school age, so Instagram, a much more widely used platform among teenagers, was selected.
Candidates created campaign accounts and made posts about their electoral platforms. The WCIinfo Instagram also made posts advertising each candidate and included relevant information such as links to their accounts, their basic platform information, their speeches, the start and end of voting, and who the winners were.
Looking back on the week and how it transitioned to an online process this year, there were certainly notable timing changes, such as how voting opened before the speeches from the candidates were released, as well as the fact that online voting allowed for hearing the results within an hour of voting closing.
The campaign itself ran from Monday, May 25th to Friday, May 29th with each candidate advertising for themselves and bringing forth their ideas. Every WCI student was then allowed to vote starting Wednesday, May 27th until Friday, May 29th at 3 pm.
All the candidates shared similar ideas and goals for the coming school year. For us as students, our school and how it runs is very important to us. We all want to see our school year be as fun and successful as possible, leading us to focus on and watch what the co-mayors say they will plan and change.
FJORD asked students from different grades what they used to make their decision about who to vote for. Some students said that they followed the plans that the candidates talked about, explaining that those views had a deep effect on how they voted. Charis H., a grade 9 student said she “decided to vote on what was needed to be changed from this year to the next and who was giving it and following through.”
Grade 10 student, Zoe F., had this to say about the role speeches played in her decision. “I was looking for the people who appeared to have the most interesting and fresh ideas, while also being realistic with what they want to accomplish.” Students like Zoe consider whether a candidate’s plans can be accomplished or not during the following year.
Another primary point of focus for some students was who the candidates are as people and whether they had interacted with them before. Sidra I. who is in Grade 11 said, “I knew their personalities from clubs and teams that we were in together, so I knew who would be a good fit.”
A consensus seemed to be that candidates should treat other students well and be fun and friendly with them in order to secure votes. According to Grade 10 Jai S., “Will and Sara seem[ed] like they could make school event[s] fun.”
Students have many opinions about the fact that this election was held online this year. Some said it was for the best and a great improvement; it was easier and faster to vote, for instance. In previous years, the method of paper ballots used one-time slot for your grade and if you missed it, you missed it. Also, some students found it much more enjoyable to be able to watch the speeches from home without the loud noise of the auditorium.
Other students said it was a step backwards and that it should never happen again. Some recognized that not all students use Instagram, so the information and campaigns were not accessible to all students Some were considerably less informed about what each candidate was going to do.
A deeper look at the role that social media played in this election can allow a different story to unfold.
The two winners of the election ended their campaigns with almost the exact same number of followers on their respective campaign Instagram accounts. This following outnumbered their competitors by almost 100 followers.
The candidates’ personal Instagram accounts presented a similar pattern. The electoral Instagram accounts’ followings are considerably similar to the respective candidates’ own personal Instagrams: the two who won both have the most followers, but this time it is nearly double their competitors with each having about 1,000 followers compared to their competitors’ 500. In addition, the candidates who won had similar numbers of followers.
In the future, it seems that students want the voting process to continue to happen online so that more people will vote and so there isn’t as much of a constraint as to when you can. It should also be considered for the speeches to be recorded and posted in addition to the live ones so that people who miss them or can’t hear over the crowd can properly take in the information and make the most informed vote they can.
Whether the change to using social media this year influenced the voting cannot be determined fully. What we did learn is that there are benefits to having parts of the election held online, while other aspects should be kept in person. It can also be said that many students here at WCI make informed decisions to their voting based on both what a candidate says will happen and how the candidates treat their peers.
In the past, it has been questioned as to how democratic this process really is and if popularity holds any influence over results. This online process may not provide concrete answers, but it does help us to understand how social media can affect electoral results given candidates’ large online presences prior to an election.
With hopeful hearts, we officially turn the school over to the new mayors in hopes that they do a stand-up job in the coming year.