How to Win a High School Election: Advice and Ideas Collected from over 1,000 High School Seniors


Here are hundreds of practical tips on how to run and win a high school election, collected directly from seniors who recently campaigned or voted for student council at their school. Full of real-life advice sent to the author by thousands of students, this book shows high schoolers interested in student government how to determine whether or not to run, adopt a positive campaign attitude, make a great speech, develop achievable goals, and deal with the prespeech, preresults jitters. Readers will find selections...
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Here are hundreds of practical tips on how to run and win a high school election, collected directly from seniors who recently campaigned or voted for student council at their school. Full of real-life advice sent to the author by thousands of students, this book shows high schoolers interested in student government how to determine whether or not to run, adopt a positive campaign attitude, make a great speech, develop achievable goals, and deal with the prespeech, preresults jitters. Readers will find selections from other candidates' speeches, posters, and handouts. They'll discover what works-handing out candy bars-and what doesn't-red, white, and blue posters, sounding ""professional""-based on the reactions at other schools.
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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-A solid and entertaining offering. In a natural, unaffected tone, Marx identifies those qualities most likely to lead to success in a school election. They include being sincere, talking (and listening) to people, and making a great speech (short, funny, and well prepared). There is no vague, starry-eyed advice here; this is a real primer in practical politics. The author readily admits, for instance, that most students are apathetic about elections and he tells candidates how to turn this fact to their advantage. Much of the text consists of direct quotes from students and they may be the most useful part of the book-certainly they are the most amusing. Well organized enough so that readers can pick and choose sections to use, this is an accessible book for anyone interested in running for a school office.-Richard Luzer, Fair Haven Union High School, VT Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780966782400
  • Publisher: Marx, Jeff
  • Publication date: 9/28/2003
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 180
  • Product dimensions: 6.08 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Jeff Marx is a lawyer who won an election for student council vice president while in high school. He is the cocreator of the Broadway musical Avenue Q. He lives in New York City.
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Read an Excerpt


Yes, school elections are usually popularity contests. But anyone can win. You don't need to be popular. You're a voter—do you choose one candidate over another because he or she is popular?

School elections are not necessarily won by the candidate who's the best-looking, who's the best athlete, who's the smartest, who has the highest grades, who's the most talented, who has the most experience, who's the funniest, who dresses most expensively, who throws the biggest parties, or who has the most friends. It's not about having the biggest or the most posters, or about spending the most money on handing out candy, or about giving the most intelligent and professional speech, or even about having the best ideas or being most qualified for the office. Winning a high school election all comes down to four things:


Voters' minds are almost always made up during the campaign period, not before.

Anyone who is sincere and appealing can win.

In fact, people who seem less likely to win can actually have a much better chance of winning than the more popular people, if they want it more, try harder, and take care to do it right. Nobody really likes voting for the same old people, especially when they become full of themselves and start thinking they're somehow better than everyone else. It's not about who's popular, it's about who's well-liked. There's a huge difference. It doesn't matter whether you're popular or not,well-known or not, or experienced or not. If you genuinely want to be elected into office for the right reasons, and if you're willing to take some risks in putting yourself "out there" and sincerely asking people to support you, you can get enough votes to win.

Underdogs win all the time. Here's how.

When I was a Junior in high school, I decided to run for Vice-President of the Student Council. I had no experience as a class officer or Student Council member, I wasn't popular, and the other two candidates were far more qualified than I was. One was a popular cheerleader and multiple-term class officer, the other was a top student who had held Student Council positions for years, was already the Student Council Secretary, and was widely expected to win. I was the underdog. I decided to come up with a real "issue" that I could run with. I looked around the school and thought to myself, "What could a Student Council officer do to make this school a better place to be?" I decided that the school rule prohibiting students from ordering pizza deliveries at lunchtime was worth addressing. So I went to the principal and discussed the issue with him, and he explained to me that the rule was made years ago because students were leaving their pizza boxes all over school, creating a mess. I asked him if we could have a "trial period" where we could try allowing them again, on the condition that the school remained clean. He agreed. I then called up the local pizza place and asked the manager if we could get a special deal for students. We worked out a cheap special, and planned to print discount coupons. I unveiled the plan in my campaign speech, as an example of the kind of thing I would do in office, not just talk about. I said it was already done, showing that I'm the kind of person who gets things done rather than just making promises. The stodgy old Student Council advisor didn't like this one bit, and he talked the principal out of fulfilling his promise to me. (Among other things, he said that if anyone was going to sell pizza during lunchtime, it should be the Student Council's student store, not the local pizza delivery place.) Between him and the principal, they reneged on me and then made sure the entire student body knew that my campaign promise would not be kept, and that I had "lied" in my speech. They had notices to this effect read to each class during the morning announcements and they put flyers up on the walls and doors of the cafeteria. They even put signs saying this right on the doors of the voting area. It was devastating. They made me look like a liar even though I honestly had promised only what the principal assured me I could. Despite this, how did I win? Well, instead of turning red and crawling under a rock, or dropping out of the race, I took this as an opportunity to meet people and talk to them. I hung around the hallways and the cafeteria, and I said hello to everyone I saw and asked him or her to vote. Almost every single person asked me what had happened with the pizza, and I took the time and care to explain the whole story to each and every person who was interested. I said, "I tried. The principal promised me we could do it, and then he changed his mind. Now they've made me look like a liar. Do you really think I would have gotten up there and flat-out lied?" I'm convinced that my "damage control" efforts in talking to everyone who would listen was what won me support. I think that on an individual, one-on-one basis, I showed a lot of students that I was friendly, genuine, caring, passionate, and down-to-earth. And, very importantly, I asked each of them — knowing that every vote was important — to please be sure to vote. I had an aggressive underdog mentality. I felt I was the candidate least likely to win, so I tried harder than my opponents. During my speech, I was confident and enthusiastic about the pizza and my desire to do something to make the school better. It was obvious that I was talking about something I was genuinely excited about. On the other hand, one of my opponents got mad at the audience's inattention during her speech and started demanding, "Listen to me! Listen to me!" (which only made the audience laugh at her). The other opponent tried to make her competition look bad by calling us names ("Little Miss Cheerleader here and The Pizza Man"), which was not admired by anyone. Who could have predicted it? Each of my popular, well-qualified opponents had done something stupid, sabotaging their chances of winning, and I was out there talking to the students and trying to get one vote at a time. In the end, even though my pizza plan didn't come through, I think I succeeded in letting everyone know that I was trying to do something good for the school, and that I was a sincere person who would do whatever I could to serve the student body. Also — this is crucially important — I recognized that not everyone votes. Often, the candidate who wins is not necessarily the one with the most widespread support, but the one who gets the most people to actually go cast ballots. I did. I pleaded with people to go cast a vote, confident that if I was merely asking them nicely to "at least go make a choice" instead of pressuring them only to "vote for me," most of the people I asked would probably vote for me anyway. It's all about people. It's NOT about being slick and political, kissing babies, and putting up posters; it's about being friendly, being genuine, being confident, and getting people to the polls. If I could win a high school election, ANYBODY can. If you're interested at all in doing the job, go for it! Nobody knows what you want except you, and nobody will be as sorry as you if you don't go after it. So don't stop yourself! Your chances of winning are far better than you'd imagine.

You don't need to be popular to win a school election. In fact, most of your class probably secretly resents the popular people with the snotty I'm-better-than-you-and-nobody-can-beat-me attitudes, and would be glad to vote for anyone with the courage to run against them.*

* Of course, not all popular people are snotty. Some people are popular and well-liked because they're genuine and friendly. But you know who I'm talking about — the ones who are popular but NOT well-liked, the ones who are condescending, the ones who pick and choose who they can talk to because of what clique they're in... The people who forget that we're all human, and think they're better than everyone else. If you can't stand someone's attitude, you can bet you're not the only one who notices and resents it. Just because someone appears to be "popular" (well-known) doesn't mean he or she is well-liked enough to win a majority of the votes.

Students get tired of seeing the same old people win again and again. People grow and change. They like giving "new blood" a chance whenever possible—perhaps hoping that someday they'll get a chance too. Also, everyone likes to prove that it's possible to be a nice person and succeed. Students will only vote for someone they like. The popular people don't always fit into that category. Don't think that behaving like you're a shoo-in will win you votes. Whether you're popular or not, you should try to show that you are just a "normal" person who wants to make a difference and work hard to help improve your school. Students would rather vote for someone who's really excited about doing the job than for someone who just wants another title to confirm for everyone how wonderful he or she is. Even if the students you're running against are really good candidates—candidates even you would want to vote for—you just never know. It doesn't mean you can't beat them. They could split the majority of the votes and each have fewer votes than you. They could do something stupid and lose support. They could get overconfident and pompous, act like they've already won, and turn everyone off. They could give a really lame speech because they think they'll win anyway. They could get disqualified. They could drop out of the race. You never know what's going to happen. Don't hold yourself back from running because you imagine someone else might do a better job than you. Come on, it's not brain surgery! Don't let your own self-doubt control you. Too often, the people you step out of the way for, letting them go ahead of you, end up disappointing you. They don't appreciate it, they forget, they lose enthusiasm, and they almost never do the job as well as you thought they would. You always end up kicking yourself for not going after something you wanted. If you want the job, go for it! For everyone who wins, there's someone who doesn't. Nobody remembers, nobody cares. You cry a little and then move on. The only real defeat is when you stop yourself from trying. Then you're sure to lose. Running can be fun, whether you win or not. (If you make it fun.) If you focus on the right things during your campaign, you can have a great time, earn respect from your classmates, and meet new people. If you run a good race and make a good effort, you'll have a lot to be proud of, regardless of the outcome. Throwing yourself into the ring can do wonders for your confidence and self-esteem. Also, your chances are far better than you'd think—especially if you're reading this book and learning from the successes and failures of others who have done what you're about to do.

If your school requires you to be nominated, and you want to run, go ahead and ask someone to nominate you. It's perfectly okay to ask someone to do this for you, because the voters will still make up their own minds. Don't lose the opportunity to run because you sat by silently and wished someone had thought of nominating you. Be aware of the deadline. Decide to run, or decide not to run, but let it be your own deliberate choice—don't miss out because you were accidentally too late to sign up.

If the thing that's stopping you is FEAR (a four-letter word), please, just suck it up and take a deep breath. Picture how proud you'll be if you win; picture yourself running a good race and having fun with it; think of the friends you may not have met yet who you could have an excuse to talk to and meet during the campaign... Think of how young you are, and say to yourself, "If I don't attempt this now, when will I ever have the guts to—or the chance to?" And then GO FOR IT!

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Table of Contents

Why This Book (The Author's Story) 1
Part 1 Summary and Best Advice 7
Part 2 Ideas for Speeches and Posters
Part 3 More Advice from Your Peers
Part 4 Final Note
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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 6, 2004

    No way

    I never give bad reviews about books but, I used this book to obtain the Freshmen Class Secretary position and it did not work at all. Most of the ideas in that book are ideas that 95% of people wouldn't dare do. Kids in high school are rotton and laugh at anybody other than the most popular candidate. By the way, that book was wrong. The most popular kids won the elections for all four class officer positions.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 2, 2002

    a MUST HAVE if running for an office!!!

    Before reading this book, I lost a presidential election the previous year. I have just read the book, and it made me realize how many things I did wrong in that election (boring speech, insincere personality, etc.). The book is full of logical and trustworthy information and tips from experienced high school seniors. So, as I prepare to run for student body president, I'm almost positive this book will be the secret to a success!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2002

    How this book made me win my High School Election!

    This book was so amazing, and was packed with ideas. I used a variety of different things said in this book, and ended up winning this year's election!

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