Tearing down fliers sparks complaints against candidates

By Michael Logli

Student election campaigning is drawing negative attention as complaints are filed against candidates accused of tearing down campaign fliers.

“It happens every year,” said Ryan Ruzic, former student body president. “But the Student Election Commission has done little to stop it.”

This year complaints have been filed against student trustee candidates Rob Main, junior in Business, and Paul Schmitt, junior in LAS and former Illini Media employee.

“A significant proportion of my fliers have been torn down,” Main said. “Third parties are getting a lot more motivated.”

Both candidates blame these third parties for the massive increase in the acts of vandalism against the candidates’ campaigns.

“These third parties could be people who judge candidates based on their positions, but there are some who tear fliers down because of personal grudges against one of (them),” Schmitt said. “I’m very disappointed about this.”

Both contenders have insisted that they have not personally torn down any posters, but they also agree that they cannot control the intentions of the third parties. Regardless, the candidates hope that these activities are stopped in the future because they make both the individuals running for office – and the race itself- – look bad.

“I am very dedicated to the rules of the campaign, and I try to make sure those that work with me are too,” Main said.

Kevin Shields, graduate student and co-chair of the commission, said the commission usually gets complaints every year, but there is no rule that specifically states that campaign posters cannot be torn down.

“Anyone who would intentionally deface campaign material would consider it a campaign violation,” Shields said.

Participants are allowed to file complaints to the commission about illegal campaign actions, but many complaints are not heard until after the election is over, Shields said.

If illegal activity can be proven, then the commission can either fine the offender or take him off the ballot. To determine whether the action was taking place, the commission examines the weight of proof against the accused person and then makes a judgment accordingly. Necessary proof could involve anything from witness testimonials to looking in trash cans near areas where posters are regularly displayed, Shields said.

But taking a candidate off the ballot after the election or forcing him to pay a fine is not enough of a punishment, Ruzic said.

“Since no one sees real action, no one has any fear,” he said.