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How candidates Damon Krane and Ellie Hamrick got your phone number

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Ohio University students may have recently received text messages from Athens mayoral Independent candidate Damon Krane or City Council Independent candidate Ellie Hamrick — even if they did not previously express interest in either candidates’ campaigns.

The candidates, who are both running on socialist platforms, spent the past several weeks focused on promoting their platforms and encouraging voter registration through texts and social media outreach.

Krane and Hamrick said the student phone numbers were obtained through a public records request from Ohio U, but neither of them directly made the request, they said. Rather, a supporter allegedly requested students’ contact information from the university and then shared scores of students’ phone numbers with Krane and Hamrick’s campaigns, both candidates said.

Student phone numbers are public record, unless students specifically request that their contact information remain private, said Carly Leatherwood, senior director of communication services at Ohio U.

Leatherwood, however, said there was no record of a recent request for student contact information made to the Ohio U Division of Student Affairs.

The supporter who allegedly provided the student phone numbers to both candidates did not state their name, Krane said.

Krane in particular was interested in using the phone numbers to reach students, who he described as an underserved population in local politics. 

“I feel as though no local candidates have tried to substantially reach out to students to address the main issues facing students,” Krane said. “I think for decades student voters have largely been ignored by candidates for local office, and we’re starting from scratch to turn that around.”

The self-described Democratic Socialist’s campaign is primarily focused on students, both because of disadvantages that come with students attempting to register to vote and their presence in Athens. Krane said that students make up the majority of the renters in town, but many Athens residents also rent property.

“I should say students aren’t the only renters in town, but when you take them out of the voting equation it dramatically decreases the power of all tenants in Athens,” Krane said.

The candidate pointed to a few obstacles that may prevent students from becoming involved in local elections, such as primaries, which usually take place after students have left town. He also said students frequently change their addresses during their time at Ohio U, making it difficult for candidates to contact them. 

Students have a short, six-week window between when they arrive on campus and when voter registration closes, but students may be too preoccupied with classes to worry about registering to vote, Krane said.

Hamrick said she’s focused on reaching college students, rather than other local demographics, simply because she possesses multiple student numbers. But she also said she is contacting students because she’s observed that many students are uneducated about voting in local elections. Hamrick views involving students in local politics is vital for individuals to ensure their voices are heard.

“If you’re going to be here for four years, you may not plug in locally, and I think that’s a mistake,” Hamrick said. “I think what happens in this town affects students, and it’s just a way to let people know that there’s politics happening around you and you can get involved.”

Texting back either candidate lands the messages in their inboxes. Hamrick received responses from students who want more information about her candidacy throughout her texting promotional campaign. She’s done her best to text back anyone who expressed interest, although she admitted it is too early to tell if these interactions will lead into more substantive engagement.

Both candidates also are aware that some students are not interested in the texting campaign and may be bothered by this form of outreach, but they believe outreach is worth any negative feedback.

“I know it’s annoying to get a text, but I do think the problems we’re trying to confront in this campaign are a lot more annoying,” Hamrick said. “I hope people will be patient with them and hopefully get involved.”

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