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Every March, a few dozen Penn students start acting decidedly different. They start smiling a little more. They're a lot more social in the dining halls and while strolling down the Walk. And most of their talk is littered with strange phrases like "working for you," and "I have the experience." Yes, these people are candidates for office. But while they may gain more attention for their campaign assaults on this campus' bulletin boards and e-mail accounts, they also have a habit of proposing some particularly unique and ambitious plans for the future of the University. This week, the annual campaign push commenced yet again, as nearly 65 undergraduates began their efforts to gain election to either the Undergraduate Assembly or class boards. Some of these candidates are proposing concrete, manageable plans to enhance student life at Penn. Others parade unrealistically bold measures for changing the University. And still others, unfortunately, have undermined both their own reputations and our intelligence by treating the contest as if it were just a big joke. But the ultimate choice of which individuals will represent the student body rests not with them, but with you. Between now and April 3, you will have the opportunity to cast online votes for these candidates via PennInTouch. In the interests of building a strong, capable student government, you should make it a priority to research the candidates and cast informed votes accordingly. But that's where the obligation ends. Too often do these kinds of elections become shallow contests of popularity. And too often, also, do these student elections fall into the hands of those who just don't seem to care. Those kinds of elections weaken the effectiveness of our elected bodies. And, in turn, they diminish the possibility that any real positive change will come about in the year ahead. As you head to your computer to cast a vote this week, don't feel any obligation to vote for inferior candidates simply to round out your ballot. And while it's often tempting to vote for the seemingly affable candidates just to rouse a laugh, don't cast votes just because an individual seems particularly amusing in their 150-word statement or unique campaign poster. The race for these spots concerns all students who could benefit from a more effective student government. That's why it's crucial to elect an informed, capable slate of candidates to represent us in the year to come.

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