By Pam Nicholls GSAC Board Member
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Registered voters in the City of Naples are being bombarded with campaign literature. That’s not unusual during a run-up to a General Election. What distinguishes the current Mayoral race from past campaigns is the means of delivery, the origins of the messaging, and the negative rhetoric conveyed in the postcards, emails, and text messages that many of us are receiving.

One such message, suggesting the recipient had applied for a vote-by-mail ballot, whether they had or had not, found its way to a good number of registered voters and caused confusion and consternation.

See this Fox4 news report.

Although under the City’s Charter, municipal elections are to be nonpartisan in nature, it would seem the days of non-partisan, pick the best candidate elections in Naples are gone. Certainly, if this general election is anything to go by, Political Action Committees (PACs) have cornered the market on dirty tricks campaigning and are doing their utmost to sway voters.

This is made possible under Florida law, where voter information is public, allowing PACs to get voter particulars and use personal contact details to send mass texts, emails, and mail shots.

Two of the main culprits identified are WIN AMERICA, an America First political organization based in Gainesville that has been repeatedly fined by the Florida Division of Elections, and CITIZENS AWAKE NOW, of which Alfie Oakes, an influential Republican State Committeeman, is chairperson.

Candidate Gary Price has been their main target. See this NBC2 News report.

According to Melissa Blazier, Collier County Supervisor of Elections, her office has received multiple complaints from citizens about text messages they had received, written so as to deliberately imply that they are from her office. She confirmed that the election office would not, and will never, send messages containing information on specific candidates because it’s against the law. As she told NBC-2 political reporter Dave Elias: “This, to me, is election fraud.”

Blazier stressed the importance of checking message sources to avoid misinformation. Political ads are required by law to say who paid for them, but this information is often in very small type and not easily identified.

If you find that the sender is a PAC rather than the candidate’s campaign committee, a limited amount of information about that PAC is available on the Florida Division of Elections website.

The Collier County Supervisor of Elections has now launched a text messaging service to keep voters informed about elections. Users can opt-in by texting COLLIERVOTES to 91896.

For a better idea of what the mayoral candidates have to say for themselves, please read the attached booklet distributed at the GSAC Forum on January 29th. Another resource with reliable information is local political blogger, Sandy Parker. She has published articles on both the Mayoral Race and City Council Race.