Monday, April 24, 2006

Upham violates election law

Councilor Andrew Upham violated state election law today.

The violation occurred when Upham and his supporters brought anti-recall campaign signs to Gray Town Hall as part of a staged backdrop for a television interview Upham was doing with WGME Channel 13 News. Because town hall is currently a designated absentee voting site for the May 2 recall election, it is illegal to have campaign material within 250 feet of it. The television interview took place outside, between town hall and Stimson Hall. The group of five sign-carrying Upham supporters, which included councilor Skip Crane, had placed additional anti-recall signs at Stimson. All of the signs were inside the 250’ campaign advertising-free zone mandated by state law.

State Election Law Title 21- A , Chapter 9, Subchapter 2, Article 4, §682 Political Activities Part 3 states in part:
3. Advertising prohibited. A person may not display advertising material; operate an advertising medium, including a sound amplification device; or distribute campaign literature, posters, palm cards, buttons, badges or stickers containing a candidate's name or otherwise intending to influence the opinion of any voter within 250 feet of the entrance to either the voting place or the registrar's office.
A knowing violation of this statute is considered a Class E crime.

Upham’s violation was first noted by a citizen who was at town hall on business. It was reported to staff, who immediately notified Registrar and acting town manager Donna Hill. She in turn notified chairman Gary Foster, who arrived shortly afterwards and informed Upham and Crane of the problem. The signs were removed and Upham later apologized to the town hall employees who were present. In addition, Elizabeth Prata, who had accompanied the Upham entourage and was present throughout the interview, sent the following email to town hall shortly afterward:
Sent: Monday, April 24, 2006 2:39 PM
To: Elizabeth Bullen
Subject: Thank you for the reminder

Hello Elizabeth, Diana, and Donna,

Councilor Crane reminded me that people may not hold political signs within 200 feet of a polling place. While I remembered that, and also that Newbegin is a polling place, I had forgotten with the absentee poll at Town Office now erected that it has turned into a polling place as well. Thank you for the reminder,

Its unclear if Prata was speaking on behalf of the Upham campaign or why she felt compelled to send this note.

In a related development, pro-recall spokesman Don Crandall was also interviewed by Channel 13 News today. No violations of campaign law were reported.