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Campaign violations at courthouse

Absentee voting for the primary election in Becker County is in full swing, but unlawful campaigning by some candidates at the courthouse is causing a bit of controversy.

The courthouse is a designated polling place, therefore campaigning there is prohibited, an issue that can easily come into play when candidates already work in the building.

“We have gotten complaints from time to time from the public,” said County Administrator Jack Ingstad, who says he’s personally spoken with a few of those candidates to remind them of the policy.

“With absentee voting going on, you can’t campaign within 100 feet of the building,” said Ingstad, “…no buttons, no T-shirts, no vehicles parked out front with somebody’s name on it.”

Becker County Elections Supervisor Tanya Hockett sent out an email to county employees before absentee voting began June 27 reminding them that election material is prohibited there and notices stating such are posted on the doors of the courthouse.

In question was the employee parking lot at the courthouse, where at least one candidate had a vehicle with their name on it that was being used for campaigning.

“But that was measured off and it is more than 100 feet away, so we really don’t police that,” said Ingstad, who says while there may have been a couple of issues that prompted some “talkings to,” he believes election time can be a bit “crazy” and people are sensitive about  possible violations, even when they’re not there.

“Even if somebody is seen talking to somebody else in the lobby of the courthouse, I might get a call from the public complaining that they were trying to solicit votes there,” said Ingstad, “so I just remind people here that even if they’re not violating anything, they also shouldn’t do anything that might even give the appearance that they are.”

The primary election is Tuesday, Aug. 12.

A number of state races are on the ballot, along with county races for auditor-treasurer and recorder, neither of which an has incumbent on the ballot.