Four of Wayne County’s November election candidates missed a campaign finance report deadline by a few minutes or hours.

Separately, a candidate’s relative gave a ride to a voter needing mobility assistance but parked too close to the polling site while in a vehicle with a magnetic sign featuring the candidate’s image and name.

Wayne County’s election board heard from those candidates during a Dec. 4 hearing regarding election violations and chose to issue the minimum fine of $25 for each infraction, said Debbie Berry, Wayne County Clerk of Courts.

Campaign finance

State law required candidates in November’s election to submit a pre-general election campaign finance report by noon Oct. 20.

Four Richmond Common Council candidates — Gary Miller, Gary Turner, Jerry Purcell and Carl Rhinehart — missed that noon deadline.

However, all submitted the report before the close of business that day, with times of 12:25 p.m., 2:15 p.m., 2:25 p.m. and 4:25 p.m.

During the hearing, election board members gave each candidate the opportunity to explain why they were late.

One candidate reported stopping for another errand on the way to the courthouse that took longer than expected. Another had a printer issue. One noted their campaign finance manager had gone out of town. One said he didn’t realize it was due by noon.

State statute says candidates can be fined $1,000 per day that the report is late.

Berry said the local board typically issues a $25 minimum fine for a first-time candidate’s violation. If a candidate repeats the mistake during their political career, the fine is typically doubled to $50. 

Vehicle concern

In a separate hearing, Purcell was interviewed because election officials had received a complaint alleging electioneering on his behalf within 50 feet of the entrance to the vote center at First English Lutheran Church in Richmond.

The board found him in violation of the rules because a vehicle with a magnetic sign featuring his name and picture had stopped near the door.

Purcell said the Republican Party chair had asked Purcell’s family to help transport voters to the polls who needed rides.

One of Purcell’s relatives provided rides and stopped at the church’s door to let out a voter using a cane. However, the driver didn’t realize that the signage on the vehicle posed an issue, and the family felt badly about the misunderstanding, Purcell told the board.

How the process works

Berry said the election board doesn’t want to discourage candidates from running for office or offering rides to voters. However, she noted that candidates must follow the state rules and the election board’s hearings are the fair way to follow up on any allegations.

Berry said those who believe they’ve witnessed an election violation can tell an inspector if they’re on their way into the polling site. If they see a violation as they’re leaving the site, they should not re-enter the polling area, but are asked to signal for an inspector at the doorway to come talk with them.

Making a verbal complaint is not enough; voters must file a complaint in writing if they want the election board to pursue it.

Candidates are then given a copy of the complaint and time to review it before the hearing.

The board, which includes a Republican and Democrat and Berry as the tiebreaker, considers each case separately.

Candidates are sworn in to tell the truth, and board members can ask them questions before they take a vote and assess a fine.

Berry said the hearings went smoothly, and all candidates were very respectful and understood the rules.

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A version of this article appeared in the December 13 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Millicent Martin Emery is a reporter and editor for the Western Wayne News.