Local election laws vary from state to state, and from office to office. Although the web is still a freewheeling environment, there are still election laws that apply to online political campaigning. If you are a candidate, it’s essential that you know the rules that apply to you online before you create a campaign website.
Here are some general topics we see regarding the web and local election laws:
When can you start campaigning? Some municipalities have restrictions on when you can actively start campaigning. Some laws are more restrictive than others. Some clients reserve a domain name and even get their website ready to go in anticipation of the time that they can go ‘live’ with it.
Website disclaimers: You may need to have various disclaimers or certain verbiage in your site footer text or elsewhere on your site. Generally, this would match the requirements of your printed materials. Paid for by …
Restrictions on what can appear on your campaign website: There may be restrictions on the use of state flags or state seals in the design. (We’re looking at you, Florida!)
What you can say on your site: We’ve had to change a few client’s site headers after they’ve discovered that they cannot use certain phrases or words. In one case, we had to remove the word ‘Elect’ from the header because the election laws for the position did not allow for that word to be used.
Finance limits: Be sure not to exceed your local campaign contribution limits. Your donation page should be configured to reject donations that exceed your limit.
Invoicing for internet services: This time of year (summer), we tend to get invoice requests. If you pay for an online service, you should keep records of your expenses, just as you would for anything else in your campaign.
The lesson here is that you need to know your local election laws. A good rule of thumb is that if something is not allowed in print, you can bet it won’t be allowed on the web. You can be sure that an opponent will use even a small or insignificant election law violation as an attack point. Just stick to the letter and the spirit of the law, and you’ll have no problems at all!
Legally, at least.
Learn more about our Campaign Website Packages to create an effective, professional web presence that helps win elections. Our Regular and Enhanced website packages include custom design and plenty of features!
By Shane Daley