By Erich Wagner (File photo)
Mayor Bill Euille’s write-in campaign for re-election hit a minor bump last month, when it was discovered that a flyer it distributed contained an improper sample ballot.
According to state law, sample ballots distributed by partisan organizations cannot be printed on white or yellow paper, so that they are not be confused for ballots or samples produced by a board of elections. But Anna Leider, general registrar for the Alexandria Board of Elections, said a recent Euille flyer did just that.
“It was part of a flyer, and [the sample ballot portion] was on a white background,” she said. “Sample ballots are not supposed to be on white paper, and it also still had the Alexandria electoral board authorization line still on the ballot, rather than the Euille campaign line.”
Leider said in accordance with city policy, she contacted Euille’s campaign and referred the incident to the state board of elections for review.
“They understood they could not continue to distribute the flyer … and I don’t believe any were distributed as soon as I said something to them,” Leider said. “The rule is to make sure the sample ballot doesn’t get confused with the real ballots [or the board of election’s official sample ballot].
“Individual groups can use the ballot that we put out [as a template], but when they do that for their own purposes, they need to replace the electoral board line with their own authorization line.”
Eric Williams, chairman of the Euille campaign, said the group corrected the problems in subsequent sample ballots it distributed, although it has moved on to other types of mailers and issues.
“The authority line was on the front, but not the back [of the flyer], and as we told the board as well, we have corrected the authorization line, putting it on the front and the back of the actual sample ballot,” Williams said. “I want to stress that it was a flyer, with ballot info on the back of a flyer, which is much different [than distributing only a sample ballot].
“But we’re not using it anymore. We’ve moved on to the next stage of our campaign, which is educating the constituency on the issues.”
Rose Mansfield, a spokeswoman for the state board of elections, said the board will examine the matter after the election is over, likely around January 2016.
“The board does not handle violations prior to the election,” she said. “The reason is that they don’t want any potential violations to be an influencing factor in the election itself.”
The maximum penalty for distributing improper sample ballots is a $100 fine, Mansfield said. But the board has broad discretion in hearing such cases.
“You know, a lot of times, people make errors, and we try not to be so hard in an imperfect
world,” she said. “When folks realize the error and immediately collect or correct the materials, those are factors that the board considers.”