Students should use their real name in elections

Most students don’t know me. Most students don’t know “Modaddy.” However, when about 12,000 students logged on to vote in the student elections, it was obvious that “Modaddy,” and two other candidates with the nicknames “Buck” and “Neville,” caught the eyes of the student body in a race of 15 candidates. All three were elected.

These candidates were not the first to use facetious nicknames on the ballot. In previous years, there has been a handful of candidates that used such nicknames, and they’re elected year after year. There is no doubt that the way names appear on the ballot influence voters, even if it’s part of their legal name. For example, a former senator with the middle name “Macaroni” won over 1,000 votes for three years in a row.

It’s obvious that using facetious nicknames on the ballot provides an advantage to candidates, and it’s the responsibility of the Illinois Student Senate to ensure that elections are equitable for every candidate, regardless of whether they have a nickname. Therefore, I’ve authored a resolution that will recommend the Urbana-Champaign Senate to amend the rules for student candidates. 

If passed by the ISS and the U-C Senate, candidates will only be able to run on the ballot using their full or shortened legal name, the romanized version of their legal name if it’s of international origin, or an alternate name if their legal name conflicts with their gender identity. It ensures that no candidate can use a nickname that may prove advantageous in the polls, even if it is a nickname they’re commonly known by.

Quite frankly, this resolution is 11 years late. In 2002, Shachar Meron ran as “Gordon T. Gnome Meron” for student body President, and Brian DePriest ran as “Hail T. Snail DePriest” for student body vice president. Both candidates received the most amount of votes. The fact that the student body elected these two individuals as their leaders, whose “nicknames” referred to Daily Illini comic strip characters, proves that nicknames on the ballot greatly influences voter behavior.

Voting is one of the most crucial processes of any democratic entity, so it’s imperative that students are not simply voting for candidates based on their appearance on the ballot. Strictly regulating the use of nicknames on the ballot will help eliminate this problem and further safeguard the integrity of student elections.

Matt Hill, 

freshman in LAS and deputy chief of staff and clerk of ISS