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The Dartmouth
June 23, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

EPAC advises nixing most BlitzMail regs

With this season's intense student body presidential elections two weeks behind them, election officials sat down Friday to come up with recommendations for next year's student-run Elections Planning and Advisory Committee. The biggest change EPAC will recommend is that most BlitzMail regulations on negative campaigning be thrown out.

The recommendations come in response to infractions that temporarily paralyzed the campaigns of juniors Paul Heintz and Brian Martin during the first day of voting.

Currently, EPAC rules prohibit character attacks and hold candidates responsible for the actions of all of their supporters, whether those supporters act as part of a campaign team or independently.

Both Heintz and Martin had their campaigns sanctioned after supporters sent e-mails containing what EPAC labeled as character attacks to a Panarchy undergraduate society BlitzMail list. The elections committee suspended Martin's BlitzMail use and limited Heintz's campaign to verbal communication.

Both had their BlitzMail privileges restored 24 hours later, after EPAC held hearings on each case and decided to reverse its decisions.

"The rules made sense when we made them, because they worked in every past year, but just weren't great in practice," EPAC chair David Hankins '05 said.

Negative campaigning remains a concern for EPAC, Hankins said. But the committee recommends "just kind of [allowing] the market of elections to sort it out" in the future and letting students turned off by character attacks take it out on election day.

Recipient-suppressed messages, however, would still be banned in the future, according to Hankins.

Heintz, who had a lead on eventual victor Noah Riner '06 until the last round of instant runoff voting, called the current rules "ludicrous."

"As hard as my campaign tried to follow them, there was no conceivable way for me to control the actions of tons of people, some of whom I know, some of whom I don't," Heintz said.

Hankins said the BlitzMail regulations on negative campaigning made the elections season taxing for both the candidates, who had to grapple with the sanctions, and EPAC members, who held several hearings and who had to discipline fellow students.

Heintz said that although he respects EPAC's efforts to limit dirty campaigning, the sanctions the elections committee placed on his campaign might have cost him the election.

"The actions that EPAC took directly influenced the outcome of the election. Their one job was to ensure fair elections and they didn't quite succeed at that."

Hankins said he did not think the EPAC sanctions were responsible for Heintz's 29-vote loss after the last round of instant runoffs.

"I really don't, I mean the fact that he was leading in the first four, five, six rounds of instant runoff voting -- I just don't think that the sanctions had the effect of stopping his campaign or anything like that," Hankins said.

Hankins said that in the end he felt the elections process was fair and that instant runoff voting, introduced to the campus after weeks of debate over its adoption, was a success.

"It's been kind of interesting how Dartmouth has become a model for the instant runoff voting movement," Hankins said, adding that national groups contacted him for information about Dartmouth's election system.