Essex cleans up election rules; candidates can't use town logo, property in campaigns
Policy aims to prevent confusion around town endorsement of candidates
The Town of Essex passed an election reform policy Tuesday evening that prohibits future candidates from using town-related images or logos in their campaigns.
The corporate resources policy is the second one to be approved in recent months and is part of the town's ongoing efforts to prevent some of the issues encountered in the 2018 election, according to Ward 4 Counc. Sherry Bondy.
Bondy has been a huge advocate in the town's election reform process.
This latest policy prohibits candidates from using corporate resources, such as town grounds, employees, logos, mottos or hashtags, in the election process.
"It'll level the playing field," Bondy told CBC News Wednesday. "[It will] make sure there's a clear separation between candidates and the Town of Essex so that it's not perceived out there that the Town of Essex supports or endorses any one particular candidate."
Bondy said in the 2018 election there was literature and signs circulated by candidates that sported the town logo, which may have skewed voters as they may have thought the town supported that one candidate.
The 2018 election had several issues, many of which led to an investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police that resulted in Mayor Larry Snively being charged. OPP allege he procured ineligible voters by misusing proxy voters to cast ballots.
The case is still ongoing.
The investigation was sparked by a number of complaints brought forward from residents and council members.
The way complaints were handled was also a topic of concern, which is what sparked the first reform effort, a new complaints policy in September 2020. The policy outlines the process of filing election-related concerns, including what complaints are valid, who the concern will go to and what the follow-up will look like.
Bondy says there are two other policies town council will soon address, including an election standalone sign bylaw and a policy addressing how proxy voting will be handled.
But she said there are still questions around how the policy will be enforced and what the consequences are for candidates who break them.
Though there wasn't a recorded vote, Bondy says it looked like a large majority voted in favour of the new policy.
"The public really support this policy, I've heard it over and over again," she said. "If you don't have a solid election then you start to question everything else that happens."
The town's next election is Oct. 24, 2022.