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Elections

Candidate FAQs#

Campaign Finance Reports [City Code Article V, Section 7-136]#

A vendor sent me a promotion for a $50 credit if I downloaded/used their mobile app. How should I report that?highlight_off

There are a couple of ways that it could be reported.  First, look at how your original invoice from the vendor describes the credit.  You want to report it in a way that most closely ties to the description in the invoice.  Here are some options:

  • Report the expenditure as the original amount less the $50 credit.  For example:  $300 charge minus $50 credit = $250 net charge.
  • Report the credit as an in kind contribution as it could be considered a thing of value.
  • Report the full amount of the invoice, and then on the next line, record a negative expense representing the amount of the credit, with a description of what occurred. 

Ultimately, you must decide how to report it and keep documentation for yourself on why you did what you did should there be a complaint filed.

Why was my campaign finance report rejected?highlight_off

Using the wrong format (not Excel) and not filling out the campaign finance reports completely are the most common reasons for rejection.   Creating or manipulating the campaign finance report in any other version of Excel or other software creates many issues with formatting that makes it too difficult for us to work with the file.   It can result in changes to column widths and row heights, pagination problems, font changes, missing parts of the form structure, etc.

Section 7-136(e) of City Code requires that all financial reports be on the forms provided by the City Clerk and that the forms must be filled out completely.  If the form provided by the Clerk is not used (in its original format which is Excel for now), or if the form is not filled out completely, the report will be rejected.

Failure to timely file a complete financial report may be a Code violation subject to penalties. A complete and accepted form needs to be filed by the deadlines listed.  An earlier submittal of a report, if rejected, will not count towards meeting the filing deadline.  

Do I need to file the LLC Disclosure Form along with my campaign finance report?highlight_off

No, but the Committee needs to keep them for one year (or longer if a complaint has been filed).

Contributions-General [City Code, Chapter 7, Article V, Sections 7-132 and 7-135]#

If a candidate has not yet determined whether they will be running again, or for what office, can they still accept contributions under the umbrella of their campaign committee?highlight_off

They could accept contributions after April 6, but they’ll be subject to contribution limits and reporting, and not knowing what office they will run for makes it impossible to know which contribution limit applies. They should err on the side of caution and use the $75 limit or, if they used the $100 limit, they might have to return a portion of contributions were they to run for a Councilmember seat.  I think it makes sense to treat contributions as related to this campaign until there is a new declaration of candidacy.  There are post-election uses, namely the cost of a recount, that could lead to contributions after the election.  So, there theoretically could be many more contributions to come if the outcomes are close.

Contributions after April 6 to the existing committee would be considered “unexpended campaign contributions” under 7-138, which means there would be limits on how the committee could use them.  However, if the candidate registers a committee for the next election, then those funds could be carried over and then spent as the committee sees fit in support of the next election. 

 

In the intervening days and weeks between now and the undetermined date of the gathering, can the committee accept contributions that could then be used to pay for said gathering?highlight_off

The Code defines “unexpended campaign contributions” as the balance of funds on hand with a committee “following an election.”  On April 7, the funds on hand with the committee are considered unexpended and must be held or  spent for specific purposes per Section 7-138.  This would include new contributions to the same committee.  However, if the candidate registers a committee for the next election, the funds can be rolled over for use in that election per 7-138(d). Until this happens, I think all is still related to this candidacy and this election.

I accidentally used the campaign credit card for a personal expense. I have reimbursed the campaign. How do I report that?highlight_off

List the charge as an expense on the appropriate date.  Add a parenthetical note that it was not a campaign expense, and refer to a row below where you should enter an explanation.  In the row where you write an explanation about the error and the reimbursement, enter a negative expense for the same amount.  That will result in a net zero and will ensure that the erroneous expense does not calculate into your total expenses.

Are Councilmembers and the Mayor employees who are prohibited from making contributions to candidates?highlight_off

Councilmembers and the Mayor are not considered employees and are not covered by the provisions of City personnel policies.  Likewise, the Mayor and Councilmembers are not employees for purposes of Charter Article VIII, Section 8, which contains the prohibitions on employees contribution to Council candidates.  Therefore, they are allowed to make contributions.

How do transfers work between a candidate's previous committee to the existing one?highlight_off

The value of items (like a web site or campaign signs) donated from a previous committee (same candidate) to a new committee, must be reported on current committee reports as an in-kind contribution.  The report should list and include any items of value that have been transferred to the new candidate committee.  Remaining funds held by the previous committee that are rolled over to the new committee should be reported as a monetary contribution. 

Are in-kind contributions limited to $75?highlight_off

Yes, for District candidates.  The limit is $100 for Mayoral candidates.

Are volunteer hours considered to be “in-kind”?highlight_off

For example, if my son creates a graphic do I need to report that as an “in kind” contribution?

 No. The City Code (Section 7-132) excludes from the definition of “contribution” the following:

  • Services provided without compensation by individuals volunteering their time on behalf of a candidate, candidate committee, political committee, issue committee or small-scale issue committee.

In addition, the definition of “contribution in-kind” states as follows:

Contribution in kind shall not include an endorsement of a candidate or an issue by any person and shall not include the payment of compensation for legal and accounting services rendered to a candidate, candidate committee, political committee, issue committee or small-scale issue committee if the person paying for the services is the regular employer of the individual rendering the services and the services are solely for the purpose of ensuring compliance with the provisions of this Article.

Are in-kind contributions (photography, web design, marketing, etc.) counted against the $75 maximum? Or does a candidate just need to report that they received an in-kind donation and what the donation was?highlight_off

Yes.  Section 7-135(a)(1) of the Code states that “No person may make contributions and/or contributions in kind totaling more than one hundred dollars ($100.) to the candidate committee of any candidate for the office of Mayor. No person may make contributions and/or contributions in kind totaling more than seventy-five dollars ($75.) to the candidate committee of any candidate for the office of Councilmember. These limitations shall apply to all contributions or contributions in kind, whether made directly to a candidate committee or indirectly via earmarked gifts passed through an intermediary …. (emphasis added).”  There are some exceptions to the stated limit, including an exclusion for a candidate’s own in-kind contributions.

 

Do contribution limits apply to volunteer hours?highlight_off

No. See response above about contributions in-kind.

Can contributions be accepted from people outside the United States?highlight_off

No.  Contributions have to come from a U.S. citizen.  [Code Section 7-135(e)]

Do donors need to be 18 years or older?highlight_off

The City Code does not require that contributions be from adults – it defines “person” to mean any individual, or entity, organization or group of persons.

How do I handle joint contributions made through PayPal? There is no option for both parties to sign.highlight_off

We recommend that you ask the contributor(s) to put something in writing confirming that it was intended to be a joint contribution and have both sign it.  Documentation is important, even if the only documentation you can generate is your own notes related to the situation.

Can a political party make a contribution to a candidate?highlight_off

The Charter, under Article VIII, Section 8, says "no political party....may contribute or expend any mopney or other valuable thing, directly or indirectly, to assist in the election or defeat of any candidate."

Can a political party provide office space?highlight_off

The Charter under Article VIII, Section 8, says "no political party....may contribute or expend any money or other valuable thing, directly or indirectly, to assist in the election or defeat of any candidate."  You will need to determine whether office space is a thing of value.

Contributions-Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) [City Code, Chapter 7, Article V, Section 7-135(b)]#

Does Section 7-135, which outlines requirements for LLC contributions, apply to other types of corporations?highlight_off

No.

What is the difference between an LLC and a corporation?highlight_off

These are types of business entities.  There are others as well.  Candidates are advised to inquire about the business entity type in connection with any contributions in order to ensure compliance with the requirements that apply to LLCs. The Colorado Secretary of State has provided information about common legal structures for businesses here.   

Contributions - Political Parties [City Charter, Article VIII, Section 8; and City Code Chapter 7, Article V, Section 7-135]#

Can candidates transact business or obtain services from political parties?highlight_off

The City Charter prohibits contributions from political parties; the Charter and Code do not address transacting business with political parties.  If a candidate procures goods or services from a political party, the amount paid must be based on fair market value of the goods or services.  Otherwise, the difference would be considered a contribution and would be prohibited. A political party providing assistance to a candidate violates the Charter unless there is full payment for the work done. 

Can political parties pay to assist candidates?highlight_off

No.  The Charter prohibits contributing or expending money or any other valuable thing, directly or indirectly, to assist in the election or defeat of a candidate.

Council Compensation [City Charter, Article II, Section 3]#

Council Candidates#

When does the City announce who is formally running for Council?highlight_off

All candidates who have turned in a Candidate Affidavit have been placed on the City’s election website as an unofficial candidate.  Once the Clerk’s Office receives a nomination petition that includes 25 valid signatures and is deemed sufficient, we remove the “unofficial” designation and the candidate becomes official.

Door-to-Door Activities#

Is the rule around leaving literature at houses with no solicitation signs standard?highlight_off

Yes.  Here are some sections of the City Code that apply:

  • Section 15-106 through 112 – Door-to-door solicitation
  • Section 17-41(b) - Littering
  • Section 17-42(d) – Posting notices and handbills on premises

Elected Position#

What is considered an elected position?highlight_off

This means elected to a public office like a County Commissioner, State representative or similar office.

Election Operations#

Tourshighlight_off

Please contact the City Clerk’s office if you are interested in getting a tour of the ballot processing center.  You can call 970-221-6515 to schedule.  You will need to schedule a time since the Lincoln Center will be closed to the public at the time of the election.  This is open to anyone interested.

Watchershighlight_off

Watchers are eligible electors, other than a candidate on the ballot, who has been selected by:

  • A candidate for City Council or Mayor,
  • A person designated by either the opponents/proponents in the case of a ballot issue or ballot question.

Poll watchers cannot be a candidate, a family member of a candidate by blood, marriage or civil union in the second degree.

An appointed person can serve as a poll watcher for more than one candidate.  However, the poll watcher must obtain a certificate of watcher for each candidate for whom he/she will be watching and he/she must surrender all certificates to the judges of the election.

Duly appointed watchers may observe all activities within the election location, including voter registration, in-person voting, and the issuance, receipt, processing and counting of mail ballots. 

For more information related to this, please contact the City Clerk’s office.

Can you set up a camera at the processing center and provide a link for viewing?highlight_off

Although not required for a City election, a camera, or cameras, are expected to be installed in the ballot processing center for security purposes.  Staff will further explore this potential.  No link will be provided if it is determined that this poses any security or other risk to the election. 

Nomination Petition [City Charter, Article VIII, Sections 3 and 4]#

If you turn in a petition with an inadequate number of “qualified” signatures, is there a chance to cure the inadequacy?highlight_off

Yes, as long as the amended petition is received by the deadline.  For 2021, the deadline is 5:00 p.m. on February 16.  We note that it is common for prospective candidates to get more than 25 signatures as part of petition efforts to help ensure the petition is sufficient, since some of the signatures may be found to be ineligible to be counted.

Can a candidate who circulates the candidate petition also sign the petition counting towards the 25 valid signatures?highlight_off

Article VIII, Section 3 of the Charter, in relevant part:

Section 3. - Nomination; withdrawal from nomination.

Any person who is qualified at the time of nomination for the office to be filled may be nominated for the elective office by petition. A nominating petition for the office of Mayor shall be signed by not less than twenty-five (25) registered electors. A nominating petition for District Council office shall be signed by not less than twenty-five (25) registered electors residing in that District. A registered elector may sign one (1) petition for each office for which the elector is entitled to vote at the election. If an elector should sign more petitions than entitled, said elector's signature shall be void as to all petitions which the elector signed.

Can more than one nomination petition be circulated?highlight_off

Yes.

Can my spouse/friend/campaign volunteer circulate my nomination petition?highlight_off

Yes.  They cannot share a petition; one circulator only per petition.

Paid for By Statements [City Code, Chapter 7, Article V, Section 7-140]#

Do you need to post the name of the registered agent on the election sign?highlight_off

No.

Do you need to add a paid-for-by statement to a bookmark?highlight_off

Anything that is practical should include a paid-for-by statement.  This will help reduce the risk of someone filing a complaint against you.  If you are having bookmarks printed, this should be added if space can be made for it. 

Do text messages need to include the paid for by statement?highlight_off

You will need to evaluate the texts you are sending based on the requirements in the Code, provided and highlighted below:

Sec. 7-140. - Responsibility for communications.

(a)  Required Statements.

(1)  Whenever a candidate, candidate committee, issue committee, political committee or registered small-scale issue committee makes an expenditure for the purpose of financing communications expressly advocating a particular result in an election, or solicits any contribution or contribution in-kind through any broadcasting station, newspaper, magazine, outdoor advertising facility, direct mailing or any other type of general public political advertising, such communication if paid for or authorized by a candidate, candidate committee, issue committee, political committee, registered small-scale issue committee, or any agent for the same, shall clearly state that the communication is paid for by that candidate, candidate committee, issue committee, political committee or registered small-scale issue committee.

(2)  Whenever any person makes an independent expenditure in excess of the reporting threshold in § 7-139 for the purpose of financing communications expressly advocating for a particular result in an election, such communication shall clearly state that the communication is paid for by that person.

(b)  In regard to the different forms of communication set forth in subsection (a) of this Section 7-140, "communication" shall include, but shall not be limited to:

(1)  Websites or social media of a candidate, candidate committee, issue committee, political committee or registered small-scale issue committee available to the general public;

(2)  Websites or social media of a person if and to the extent they are financed by independent expenditures in excess of the reporting threshold in § 7-139 and are available to the general public; and

(3)  Advertisements placed for a fee on another person's website or social media.

(c)  The statement required by this Section 7-140 must be clear and conspicuous in the communication. The statement required herein shall not apply to communications where including the statement would be impractical, such as:

(1)  Bumper stickers, pins, buttons, pens and similar small items upon which the disclaimer cannot be conveniently printed;

(2)  Skywriting, water towers, wearing apparel, or other means of displaying an advertisement of such a nature that the inclusion of a disclaimer would be impracticable; or

(3)  Checks, receipts, and similar items of minimal value that are used for purely administrative purposes and do not contain a political message.

(d)  Nothing herein shall be deemed to alleviate any person from complying with federal campaign finance law, as applicable.

Political Action Committees (PACs)#

Please clarify if a candidate committee can accept PAC contributions? These are usually entities that raise money from their members, for example, Conservation Colorado, and use it to support candidates.highlight_off

A political committee is not allowed to make a contribution to a candidate committee.  However, as defined in the City Code, a political committee is:

Two or more persons who are elected, appointed or chosen, or associated themselves, for the purpose of accepting contributions or making expenditures to support or oppose one or more candidates (for Fort Collins office), or any person that has accepted contributions for the purpose of supporting or opposing one or more candidates for Fort Collins office.  If an organization was not formed for this purpose and is not accepting contributions to support or oppose Fort Collins candidates, the organization is probably not a political committee under the definition.

In that case, an existing organization is simply a contributor, and as such they are subject to the limitations on contributions to candidates.  If the contributing entity is organized as an LLC (Limited Liability Company), then they would also be subject to the requirement that they provide you with an affirmation showing how the contribution is attributed among its members.  There is more information about this above and in the Candidate Guidelines. 

Temporary Signs#

Where are signs allowed to be placed and what are non-conforming locations where they are likely to be removed when reported or identified by City inspectors?highlight_off

Temporary signs are allowed on private property; however, the property owner’s permission is required before signs are placed.  Signs must be located behind any sidewalks that are present and must comply with temporary sign standards (see below).

If the temporary sign is a banner, a permit is required. A banner is defined as a type of temporary sign that is painted or printed on cloth, vinyl, or other flexible material, which is designed to be stretched between poles, fence posts or wire, mounted in a freestanding frame, or hung on walls with ties, clips, rails, brackets, hooks, or frames.

Temporary signs such as most election signs are not allowed on park land, medians, sidewalks, street rights-of-way, in front of City buildings or any other public area owned or controlled by the City of Fort Collins without a permit.  The public right-of-way includes the median-like areas between the sidewalk and the street (referred to as “parkways”), as well as generally about two feet behind the sidewalk.

What is considered a temporary sign?highlight_off

Temporary signs may include election messages and must meet all standards in the Land Use Code, Section 3.8.7; specifically, 3.8.7.3.  and Article 5 Definitions.  Temporary signs include:

  • Yard Signs
  • Site Signs
  • Swing Signs
  • Window Signs
  • Feather Flags
  • Banners
  • Vehicle Mounted Signs

 The Land Use Code does not regulate a temporary sign based on its message.  Therefore, real estate signs, election signs, ideological signs and other messages all follow the same standards.

In general, these standards regulate the location, size, material, and duration of display of temporary signs. 

Are there requirements for other types of signs or physical media during campaigns?highlight_off

Other common communications are regulated by the standards in the Municipal Code Chapter 17 Article III. Sec. 17-42

  • Fliers
  • Notices
  • Posters

The Code prohibits fastening or affixing fliers or other notices to private property, including motor vehicles and other personal property, without the permission of the owner or occupants of such property.  Permission to fasten or affix fliers to the front door of a private residence is implied if there is an improved walkway connecting the residence directly to a public right-of-way, unless:

  • Access to the walkway is restricted by a fence, gate or other permanent structure;
  • A “No Trespassing” or “No Solicitation” sign or a sign prohibiting posting is posted at or near the entrance to the residence; or
  • The owner or occupant of a particular residence has notified the person/entity intending to fasten or affix the fliers that such materials may not be posted.

Banners are allowed in most zone districts.  Exceptions include:

  • Rural Lands District (R-U-L)
  • Residential Foothills District (R-F)
  • Low Density Residential District (R-L)
  • Neighborhood Conservation, Low Density District (N-C-L)
  • Public Open Lands District (P-O-L)
  • River Conservation District (R-C)

More information about these zone districts can be found in Land Use Code Article 4. 

If a banner is placed on an approved nonresidential building in compliance with all other standards it is allowed in these zone districts. These zone districts primarily consist of open space and detached single family housing. 

Vehicle mounted signs are allowed in all zone districts, similar to delivery trucks that have a message on them. Vehicle mounted signs must:

  • Be on an operational vehicle with current registration and tags;
  • Ensure the display does not interfere with the immediate operation of the motor vehicle;
  • Not cover windows or be held in place by an open hood, trunk, or door; and
  • Be placed on a vehicle that is legally parked in a vehicle use area depicted on an approved site plan.
Are there rules regarding expenditures for political communications?highlight_off

Expenditures for political communications are regulated in Section 7-140 of the City Code.    Communications purchased to expressly advocate a particular result in an election shall clearly state that the communication is paid for by the applicable candidate, candidate committee, issue committee, political committee, or registered small-scale issue committee.

 

Where can I find out more information about sign regulations?highlight_off

Information related to the allowable size and materials for temporary signs can be found in the Land Use Code (Section 3.8.7.3).  City staff is available to assist candidates with the related criteria and can also provide more information related to banners and permits.  For assistance, contact the Zoning Department at 970-416-2745.

Violations [City Code, Chapter 7, Article V, Division 2]#

What happens if I accidentally violate a campaign rule/regulation?highlight_off

City Code, Chapter 7, Article V, Division 2, describes the process.

Are there provisions in the Charter regarding violations?highlight_off

In general, the Charter does not contain specific provisions relating to campaigns. 

However, Article VIII, Section 9 of the Charter states that a person who violates at a city election any state law, provision of this Charter or ordinance of the city shall, upon conviction thereof, be disqualified from holding any city position or employment for two (2) years, or any elective city office for four (4) years.

Can you define Charter violations?highlight_off

A Charter violation can occur whenever the mandatory provisions of the City Charter are violated.

Under Article VIII, Section 9 of the City Charter, a person who is convicted of a violation of law at a city election shall be disqualified from holding a City position of employment for 2 years and elective City office for 4 years.

Yard Signs [City Code, Chapter 17, Section 17-42 and Land Use Code Section 3.8.7.3]#

What are the consequences for removing legally posted yard signs?highlight_off

Removing legally posted yard signs may subject the perpetrator to prosecution for trespass, theft or other criminal offense.

Signs posted on a property without permission should be removed by, or at the direction of, the property owner.

Signs in the public right-of-way should be reported to the Inspection Request Line (970.416.2200) so City staff can remove them and follow the procedure in the City Code to follow up with the apparent owner(s) and potentially dispose of the signs.

Do I need a permit to stand on the corner and wave a sign?highlight_off

You can stand in the public right-of-way for something like this (similar to what you see with petition signature gathering) as long as you do not impede anyone's progress (as in walking down the sidewalk.)  You should contact the Zoning department for more information:  970-416-2745.

How do I handle complaints that my 4' x 8' signs on private property are interfering with line of sight at intersections?highlight_off

Call the Zoning department at 970-416-2745 to determine if the sign is legally placed.  If Zoning staff think that someone else needs to be involved (such as Traffic), they will let you know.

Seeking Election in the Future#

The election is over. I want to run again in the next (or a future) election. What do I need to do?highlight_off

You can reregister your committee for the next appropriate election cycle. Doing so is considered to be a public announcement of your intent to run for office, which triggers the need to file a Candidate Affidavit within 10 days of a public announcement. It also means that your committee must have completed all activity for the prior election, since any subsequent activity will be treated as activity for the future election.

I have unspent funds from the past election. What do I do with those?highlight_off

First, it is recommended that you make sure that all of your prior election expenses have been covered and reported.  If you have remaining unspent contributions, you have two options:

  1. Dispose of the funds pursuant to Section 7-138 of the City Code. If the funds are used in this way and the final balance of funds on hand is $0, then you should file a termination report.
  2. Carryover the remaining balance to a future election pursuant to Section 7-138(e). To facilitate this, the last expenditure of the committee for the prior election should reflect a carryover of funds to the committee for a future election.  The first contribution line of first report in the new election cycle should reflect the carryover of funds from the prior election.  This will result in the final balance of funds on hand at the end of the election being $0, and a termination report would be in order.

Once you reregister your committee for a future election, all contributions and expenditures should be for that future election.

If I carry over funds from a prior election to a future election, do those funds count toward any contribution limits?highlight_off

No, they do not.  Section 7-138(e) of the City Code states that such carryover fund will not count against any contribution limit attributable to any past contributor in a prior election campaign.

When does campaign finance reporting start for the future election?highlight_off

As soon as you reregister your committee you must keep track of your contributions and expenditures.  However, your first report will not be due until April 1 following reregistration of your committee, every April 1 thereafter until you reach the future election cycle.  The first election cycle report will be due 35 days prior to the future election date.

What if I change my mind about running in a future election?highlight_off

If your committee has not engaged in any election activities or reported any contributions or expenditures, you may terminate the committee by filing an amended committee registration indicating that the nature of the amendment is termination of the committee and verifying that no contributions have been received or expenditures made since registration occurred.  Note that this only works if you begin the committee with zero funds on hand (no carryover from a prior election).

If your committee has engaged in election activities, then you can dispose of any unexpended funds held by the committee pursuant to Section 7-138 of the Code and file a termination report.  An email affirmatively stating that you will not be running in the future election is desirable.

If you decide to withdraw after your nomination petition has been filed, a form for withdrawal from the election is available.

If I carry over funds from a prior election to a future election, do those funds count toward any contribution limits?highlight_off

No, they do not.  Section 7-138(e) of the City Code states that such carryover fund will not count against any contribution limit attributable to any past contributor in a prior election campaign.