Treading carefully on campaign trail

Election

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Norfolk election referee Andy Grozelle didn’t have to wait long to blow his whistle.

After Ward 3 council hopeful Darryl Smart paid his deposit and filed his nomination papers on Friday, he shot a selfie video in front of Governor Simcoe Square announcing his candidacy and posted it on the internet.

That earned Smart an email reminding him that council candidates are forbidden from using Norfolk images, logos, symbols, letterhead, email accounts and so on as part of their campaign.

Smart revised the video and re-posted it minus the offending architecture.

Tuesday, Smart said it was ironic because the clerk’s department provided him with a list of campaign do’s and don’ts upon registration that he hadn’t yet read. The list includes the prohibition on county references and associations.

“This was me being too excited and wanting to do something right off the hop,” said Smart, who hopes to unseat council veteran Mike Columbus in Delhi.

“This is about providing a level playing field for everyone. That’s what the rules are about and why all candidates need to read them. My biggest scare in all this was that I might be disqualified. Andy (Grozelle) was super amazing about it.”

In a typical local election, municipal clerks will flag dozens of campaign violations large and small. Grozelle said the Smart violation is interesting because the rule in question was adopted to make it easier for municipal newcomers to compete.

“The funny thing that happened with Mr. Smart is that this rule is in place to prevent incumbents from taking advantage of their position,” Grozelle said. “It really wasn’t meant for newcomers such as himself.”

Between now and election day Oct. 22, Grozelle expects to issue dozens of gentle reminders of what can and cannot be done on the campaign trail.

Along the way, he expects to field a lot of complaints about signs. Many people, Grozelle said, don’t like election signs near their property.

Nominations for this fall’s election closed July 27, but Grozelle knows many candidates will be surprised to learn that the period of legal signage doesn’t start till Sept. 20. Signs posted before then are illegal and will have to come down.

Another easy pitfall involves provincial rules governing incorporated entities and the terms under which they can participate in the process.

Businesses, trade unions and incorporated associations often support candidates or a slate of candidates with financial donations. As of this municipal election, incorporated entities wishing to contribute money must first register with the associated clerk’s department much like candidates do.

Failure to register could cause serious problems for preferred candidates post-election.

Grozelle said candidates need to read the rules carefully, especially those governing campaign donations, finance and expenditures. Penalties for serious violations include nullification of ballot results and removal from municipal office.

MSonnenberg@postmedia.com

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