After all of the sidewalk chalk, flyers and knocking on doors, candidates can now look forward to the election returns as their fellow students take to the polls today and tomorrow to cast ballots for student government representatives.

“It’s viewed that less is at stake in the fall semester because the president and vice president are elected in the winter,” Michigan Student Assembly Election Director Brian Doughty said. “But the overall direction of MSA could largely depend on how this semester goes.”

Students can log on to vote.www.umich.edu to cast their ballots for the MSA and LSA-Student Government candidates, of which there are 44. There are 20 independent candidates and two parties: Students 4 Michigan and the Defend Affirmative Action Party.

“It’s important for students to vote because if they don’t, they’re giving up on student government,” Doughty said. “People complain that MSA doesn’t do anything. Unless you personally get involved in MSA, voting is the only way to get your voice heard.”

Independent candidate for LSA-SG Michael Forster said he’s running without a party because he was turned off by Student 4 Michigan’s “secretive” selection of candidates and that he has more freedom as an independent.

“The biggest positive is that I can have my own platform. As an independent I’m only responsible for myself. I don’t have to cater to anyone’s demands. I don’t have the support group someone running with a party has,” Forster said.

Forster says his campaign is different because he is without a party.

“It’s been a different kind of campaign. Students 4 Michigan ran its campaign where candidates were chalking and putting posters up and giving minimal information for why they’re running. The way I’ve been running it is via e-mail and with my webpage and … reaching out to votes trying to get them to vote for me.”

Forster’s website, msamikeforster.blogspot.com, lists his platform, which he says is an advantage of being an independent. If elected, Forster says he would try to get a student lobbyist in the capital of Lansing and help students get education about moving out of the dorms and dealing with landlords in off-campus housing.

The Internet was part of the Defend Affirmative Action Party’s campaign tactics as well. “We have been trying to talk to as many people as possible, by taking on the phone, and e-mailing and passing out flyers,” said DAAP campaign manager Kate Stenvig, a Rackham student.

The party’s main objective is to increase minority enrollment at the University — a pledge that comes after black undergraduate enrollment for 2004 dropped to its lowest level in six years. The party’s leaders are also closely linked to the pro-affirmative action group BAMN.

“As a party we’ve been accused of being a one-issue party and that’s definitely not true. All of the campus improvements people want will be much easier to get if there’s a student movement to organize,” Stenvig said. “As students we have a real opportunity to impact the future of the integration in higher education of the country, and that’s of historic importance.”

Students 4 Michigan spokeswoman Monica Woll said she believes her party’s campaign was successful.

The party has a broad agenda that includes placing a student lobbyist in state Legislature in Lansing, getting representation on the Ann Arbor City Council and increasing the number of academic minors at the University.

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