A political ad regarding the upcoming Mora school bond referendum vote on Nov. 5 has caused a flurry of questions and some confusion among potential voters as to how votes are cast and tallied.
The ad appeared on page nine of the Oct. 31 edition of the Kanabec County Times and states (in-part), “What happens if you don’t vote? Not voting will be counted as a yes vote.”
Denise Snyder, Kanabec County Auditor-Treasurer, clarified this statement is false.
“Not voting is not a ‘Yes’ vote,” she said. “Votes are tallied only on the number of voters voting ... The outcome is based on the number of actual voters voting, not the number of potential voters.”
The ad was prepared and paid for by Concerned Mora Citizens, also known as Kanabec Citizens for Responsible Education (KCRE). Their website is www.kanabeccitizens.com.
Dan Cook on behalf of Concerned Mora Citizens, elaborated with the Times about what the ad’s statement was intended to communicate.
Cook described that a vote either ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote on the bond referendum question feels worth more than one, because it takes away from one side and gives to the other.
“You say a lot not only by how you vote, but by how you don’t vote. Does not voting really make a ‘yes’ vote or really make ‘no’ vote? I guess that’s up to interpretation. Everybody needs to make sure their opinion is known. That’s the point we were trying to get at.”
‘The main thing is to get out and vote’
Another ad appearing on page 12 had a slightly different message: “Not voting is the same as voting yes” prepared and paid for by Darlene Milless.
Milless said the intent of her ad was to encourage people to head to the polls. She said that without voting, “You’re giving the opposition more opportunity to have votes. ... If you don’t go vote, whether you are against it or for it, the opposition will take over.”
She said, “The main thing is to get out and vote and put in your opinion.”
Milless ran for a seat on the Mora School Board in November, 2018, but was not elected. She was also a community member of the Mora Public School’s Community Task Force formed in December 2017. The task force was formed with the intention of prioritizing which repair or renovation projects at the Mora High School the district should invest money in.
Readers have responded to the ads inuring about the publishing policies of Kanabec County Times and Advertiser.
Publisher Jeff Andres responded with the following statement regarding fact-checking paid political advertisements:
These political advertisements are paid advertisements and follow the MN statute for having the person’s name or organization’s name and address printed in the ad.
Paid advertising messages can have differing perspectives or points of view. Some of these may be construed as gray or untrue by others. Because of this, we check to make sure paid advertising messages follow the laws of libel, but do not fact check advertisements. This differs from our news content in which we take great care to make sure our news is as accurate as possible.
There are options available to individuals who would like to share opposition or clarification to these paid advertisements:
They can place their own ad following the guidelines for paid political advertisements or they can write a letter to the editor.
There is another more serious option and that would be to file a complaint with the MN Office of Administrative Hearings against the person or organization listed in the ad. An online form is available on the office’s website. An administrative judge reviews the complaint and could determine fines and/or prosecution.