As of 12:01 a.m. today, candidates in the April 23-24 campuswide general elections are allowed to start campaigning, which means signs, signs and more signs. Still, there are limitations as to where and how large the signs can be, and the Associated Students Elections Committee will be enforcing those rules.
Representatives from the Elections Committee and candidates were out in full force last night. As signs were put up, four enforcement officers were armed with measuring tapes, video cameras and walkie-talkies to ensure that rules were being followed.
According to the A.S. Election Code (E-Code), candidates may not post signs on buildings, fences, cars, trees, walkways, classrooms or bikepaths. Candidates are also not allowed to post over or remove current signs, or write on sidewalks with chalk.
Candidates may post signs in lawn or dirt areas, as long as the signs are at least five feet away from bikepaths and three feet away from walkways. E-Code posting rules are subordinate to rules from groups such as the Residence Halls Association and Office of Student Life pertaining to campus activities and UCen regulations.
The first time a candidate violates the posting rules, he or she will be given a warning. Additional violations will result in a $15 fine per infraction
All candidates are required to pay a $35 bond before they can start campaigning, which is returned after the election unless they are fined. If the fines total more than $35, the additional charges may be charged to the candidate’s BARC account. A mechanism put in place this year allows A.S. to place the charges directly on the account.
“Basically it’s just holding them accountable for abiding by the rules,” acting A.S. Executive Director Carolyn Buford said.
Once the fines are assessed, the group or candidate has the option to contest the fines by appealing to the A.S. Judicial Council. Any money that is collected goes to the Elections Committee, but Elections Committee Chair Pablo Andrade said that because the committee does not need the money, it would most likely end up in A.S. Finance Board’s unallocated fund, where it can be distributed to student groups.
“We already have enough funds to proceed for the rest of the year,” Andrade said.
In the past, when the fines could not be billed to the candidate’s BARC account, it was harder to collect the fines once they were assessed, Andrade said.
“They were charged the fines, but we weren’t always able to collect them,” he said.
Last year, A.S. charged the Student Action Coalition with $1,080 in fines, but the money was never collected. SAC appealed the fines and Judicial Council ruled the Elections Committee had turned in the fines past the deadline, making them invalid, although SAC members did not ask for their bond money back. Gauchoholics, another campus party, paid $120 in fines last year.
Andrade said the two most common violations are posting signs too close to the bikepaths and having signs that are too big. The E-Code limits banners to eight feet in length and four feet in width anywhere on campus.
A.S. Executive Vice-President for Local Affairs candidate Deanna Kavanaugh-Jones said she has been having weekly meetings for her campaign since the middle of Winter Quarter, and that, for the last couple of weeks, she has had people at her house every night to paint signs.
“It’s a big time commitment,” she said. “It feels like we’re always working on it.”
When asked if she would be out campaigning at 12:01 a.m., A.S. President candidate Chrystine Lawson said, “You better believe it.”
Lawson said posting rules are important for maintaining fair campaigns, in particular the one that limits candidates to only one sign per area.
“I would say the rules are essential,” she said. “They ensure that folks will go into it with a fair chance for everyone who’s running.”
One major change from last year’s rules is the interpretation of a section of the E-Code requiring campaign literature to bear the name or group responsible for the material. Whereas last year’s signs had to have a specific emblem which read, “paid for by,” just the name of the candidate or group anywhere on the sign is now considered identification enough.
Enforcement officers also have the ability to remove signs that are not posted by legitimate candidates, as happened last year with the “Vote for Randy” posters. Signs that are derogatory toward other candidates are also prohibited.