I’ve worked on elections as a volunteer and consultant now for 24 years and it’s great to see so many young ambitious politically savvy volunteers and staffers head-over-heels into their campaign roles. But with a lot of this new ambition and the heat of battle comes the opportunity to make missteps including even illegal errors. Having been around awhile and seen some minor and major blunders, I want to pass on a few tips to the newbies.
Because I serve on an independent expenditure committee that has recently had signs vandalized and stolen, I’ll mention that first. If you are putting campaign signs up in the vicinity of your opponent, do NOT touch your opponent’s signs. No touching means NO TOUCHING. The only reason you would have cause to touch an opponent’s sign is if it was causing a serious threat to traffic safety or it was on your personal property. And in that case, as a courtesy, call your opponent and let them know. There is no need to escalate a situation by making them second guess what happened to their sign.
In the case of my IE committee, our volunteers have placed “Voted for Obamacare” signs next to Heather Carter signs in her district to make light of her vote for the Obamacare Medicaid expansion. The signs don’t touch. They don’t share a common stake, and they are completely legal and in compliance (don’t forget your disclaimers!). Our opponents have been pulling our signs out and either throwing them away from the sign area or even worse, stealing them. This is ILLEGAL. It doesn’t matter how much you despise or hate your opponent, you CANNOT touch their signs. If it makes you that angry, move your sign. But DON’T touch your opponent’s signs.
The other recent incident that I’d like to draw attention to was the removal of campaign literature from vehicles in a parking lot. At a recent gubernatorial debate, a concerned citizen put flyers on vehicles in a parking lot to educate the vehicle owners about gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones. In response, Jones’ staffers began to remove these flyers from the cars. Whether or not Christine Jones told her staffers to remove them is unclear but it did appear that her team did not want the information about Jones’ support of Democrats to be placed on the cars. Here’s a quick video showing an informed citizen confronting the Jones staffer caught removing the flyers. (Oh and by the way – another tip – everything you do with the campaign is subject to being recorded.)
If there is any doubt about the legality of removing printed materials, here is the statute – A.R.S. Title 16, Section 1019.
So a word of advice to the younger bucks working the campaign trail: try to keep your zeal and ambition in check and don’t let the battle get under your skin to the point that you break the law. When in doubt, check with your campaign manager or legal counsel and/or Title 16 of the Arizona Revised Statutes. And try not to take it too personal.