Every couple of months, I get an e-mail from a reader (or a reader’s son or daughter) asking if they can use the tactics we outline on Local Victory to win a middle school, high school, or college election. Having been involved with student government during my own school years and with my own children in school, I know a few things about school elections.
While some of the strategies we use to win local, state, and national elections don’t apply to winning school elections, there definitely are some similarities and some tactics that work on both levels:
1. Be Active!
The rule in all elections – whether they are for President of the United States or President of the Sophomore Class – is be active. Get out there and campaign! Many students running for school office throw their names in the hat and then sit back and wait – they may tell their friends they are running, but that’s about it. This is a big mistake for a couple of different reasons.
First, if you’re in a big school, not everyone will know you. The only way to get your name out is to campaign… hang up signs, wear buttons, tell people you are running and you want them to vote for you.
Second, people will be much more inclined to vote for you if they think you want to win. Why waste time voting for someone who doesn’t even care enough to campaign? A key rule in all elections, including school elections, is you have to ask people to vote for you. People are much more inclined to vote for candidates who ask them, directly, for their vote. That means that you should actually ask your fellow students, “Will you vote for me?” or at least, “I hope I can count on your vote!”
2. Name Recognition
Name recognition (Name ID) is huge in school elections. Just as with state and local elections, the voters (your fellow students) need to know your name and what you are running for if they are going to vote for you on Election Day. One of the main goals of your campaign should be to make sure that everyone at your school knows your name and that you are running for office.
The best ways to increase your Name ID are:
–Posters – hang up as many as your school will allow.
–Stickers – try to get all of your friends and contacts to wear stickers with your name on them. (“Vote for JEAN SMITH for TREASURER!”)
–Word of Mouth – ask your friends to tell their friends that you are running, and why they should vote for you.
–Hand-Outs – if your school allows it, consider handing out candy, pens, notebooks, whatever… just make sure that you slap stickers on all of those goodies that say your name and the office you are seeking. (“Eat this Candy and Vote for Bob Rov for President!”)
3. Organization and Networks
All campaigns, including school campaigns, thrive on organization and network-building. What does this mean for your student government election? It means that you should recruit your friends to help you campaign, assign them tasks, and then ask them to go out and recruit other people to help them. If they do that, you will be building a “political organization” or “network” for your campaign.
For example, let’s say you’re running for Junior Class President, and you have recruited four friends to help you campaign. You could make one friend your “Homeroom Captain,” whose job is to find one student in each homeroom who supports you and who will agree to hand out stickers and candy in their home room each week.
You could make your second friend your “Poster Captain,” who recruits some of the schools best artists to draw posters for your campaign – this not only gets you great posters, it also builds a network of supporters among the school’s arts students. Then, you could ask your other two friends to be your “Sticker Captains,” with the job of trying to get one of your stickers on every (or as close to every) kid in the school.
Winning a school election isn’t easy – I know, I’ve been there, and during my school days I won some and I lost some. But remember that no matter what, you should be having fun… it’s not worth running for student government if you’re not having fun doing it.