How Votermedia Affects Election Campaigns

6 minutes
The Votermedia system (letting voters allocate public funds to competing news media) has made election campaigns work better at UBC’s student union. Bijan Ahmadian, 2010-2011 President: “…it just feels like, more like a democracy, than it used to…” Alex Lougheed, 2008-2009 VP Academic: “…it’s definitely, definitely improved the quality of candidates that run in the elections.”


Text page: 

Votermedia (= voter funded media = VFM) at the University of British Columbia’s student union, the Alma Mater Society (AMS)

Bijan Ahmadian – AMS President 2010-2011: 

Votermedia has definitely made the election process more accessible. 
…voter media really play an important role and have really been, centre of gravity for voters to come together and discuss issues, discuss candidates, discuss their values, and give candidates an opportunity to respond, to engage with the voters. And it just feels more like a democracy, than it used to, I think, from my perspective.

Alex Lougheed – AMS VP Academic 2008-2009; Blogger, UBC Insiders:

…it’s definitely, definitely improved the quality of candidates that run in the elections. And the reason for that is there’s far more scrutiny, and candidates have to work their butt off quite a bit more, in order to just make ends meet. As a candidate, it’s really common to get a ton of emails from each of the [voter media], may they have questionnaires, may they want interviews, may they want to do photo shoots, any of those kinds of things. And that’s really increased the amount of public scrutiny on those officials. They’re now aware, and they have to be more cognizant of the issues that are at hand, and they also have to have ideas, and they have to be able to contribute to that dialog…

Matthew Naylor – AMS VP External 2007-2008: 

I thought that the rather meagre amount of coverage that we used to get in our school paper, wasn’t really the best way to talk to the people who ended up voting in the election. Through [votermedia] there were much more detailed questions, and I thought that it not only helped me reach out to people, but through those questions I felt it made me a better candidate, because I had to think about what I was saying, and I had to think about what my policies were and how I was going to answer them. And it made me come up with positions, and do my research, so that I could better step into the position when I finally was elected, the time that I was elected. [Insert: Photo by Gerald Deo – AMS Electoral Debates, 2008-01-17]

Alex Lougheed – AMS VP Academic 2008-2009; Blogger, UBC Insiders:

So one of the big indirect benefits of [votermedia] was that those who the [voter media] write on, now have to pay more attention and be more engaged. Perfect example for this is campaigns on campus. So campaigns have really evolved from what they once were… 
…in order to be a campaigner before [votermedia], what you would do is, you would go down to the Ubyssey offices (the established media on campus), and fill out a questionnaire for about 30 minutes… 
…You would be out putting up posters, or chalking on the sidewalk, or canvassing. The result of that was that the campaigns were often shallow, and somewhat dry. When you’re trying to appeal to as many people as possible, you’re going to use buzz-words, you’re going to use short snappy things like “Vote for me, I’m going to be accountable, sustainable, and I have a great history.” That’s not really what is good, for the future. So what you’ve noticed since [votermedia] is that campaigns are now more proactive. The [voter media] are going to the candidates and asking questions, more detailed than before. And the reason they can get away with that is because those kind of high level questions are already being covered by the [voter media] and by The Ubyssey itself. Now, the media who understand the issues, possibly quite a bit better than the general electorate, are able to ask the candidates these questions, able to not only get their responses, but also distill their responses into “This is what this person actually stands for.” So what you’re noticing now though, is these campaigns that are really focused in on people and their ideas, instead of simply who has the most volunteers and the most friends. And that’s been a great change for campus, and it’s really kind of made student governments a lot more responsive to what’s going on within the student body at the time. [Insert: Photo by Gerald Deo – Maayan Kreitzman at AMS Electoral Debates, 2008-01-17]

Matthew Naylor – AMS VP External 2007-2008: 

Arts was an interesting experiment for [votermedia]. 
…the amount of coverage that we saw was far and above beyond anything that we had ever seen for an undergraduate society election, ever before. Third party analysis of candidates, having people ask questions, rather than having the candidates just print up a 150-word blurb, and putting it on a website or in a handout, is way more effective… 
…and they asked the questions, and they deepened the candidates’ understanding of their own portfolios, and the electorate’s understanding of what the candidates wanted to do.

Alex Lougheed – AMS VP Academic 2008-2009; Blogger, UBC Insiders:

If you really want to influence what people are going to be up to for the rest of the year, you bring it up during the elections and you hammer it home then. 
…the goal of all that was to train and have those who are about to be elected understand what they’re getting into, what we think the priorities for them in office should be, and lastly just have a little bit of fun with it. 
In this past year as well, it’s gotten to the point where [votermedia], as well in partnership with the more established media, have started to assume certain roles that other campus institutions used to take on. 
So traditionally, the elections committee has run debates. Then this past year, UBC Insiders and The Ubyssey decided they didn’t quite like the way that those debates were going, so they hosted their own — a kind of U.S. presidential-ish style debate. 
That’s one example of how [votermedia] has taken the institutions that have classically existed, and kind of adapted them and made them more modern, because it’s a much more flexible system. [Insert: Photo by Gerald Deo – Alex Lougheed at AMS Electoral Debates, 2009-01-19]


  • Music: Sunshine by Kevin MacLeod
  • Video Production: Mark Latham & Irfaan Hafeez. Shot: April-June 2010; Released: September 2010

See also:

2007-01-24 UBC Insiders post Elections Insider Endorsements:

[Elections Insider was the blog’s original name, which changed to UBC Insiders when they became a year-round blog.]

These endorsements weren’t easy. They really weren’t. We spent hours meeting candidates (sometimes twice if we wanted to chat more) and getting a “feel” for them. We read their platforms over numerous times. And, as you’ll see below, our minds aren’t completely made up. But in fairness to the candidates, and in the interest of openness, now that our minds are made up, we proudly present our endorsements.