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Officials: Distribution of campaign materials in residence halls broke UI policy

BY NICK HASSETT | OCTOBER 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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Efforts to influence University of Iowa students to vote have been seen around campus, with representatives occupying places from the Pentacrest to the IMU. But with reports of campaign material being slipped under doors in residence halls on campus, some think the push has gone too far.

Residents of more than one dorm said they received a flier promoting early voting under their doors last week. The campaign material featured an image of President Obama, accompanied by a description of how to vote.

However, UI officials say solicitation in this manner is in violation of university policy. According to UI election resource policy, political campaigns and events must be sponsored by a recognized UI student organization. Also, the placement of campaign material — even “get out the vote” material — underneath or on doors in the residence halls is in violation of policy.

UI Dean of Students David Grady wrote in an email that the University Democrats, College Republicans, and the Campus Greens have all been provided with this information, as have representatives of the Obama campaign.

Grady said in the statement the consequences for distributing campaign material in a manner against UI policy could include legal action.

“Individuals could be issued a campus-trespass warning,” he said in a statement. “If the trespass warning is ignored, the individual could be arrested.”

For Hillcrest resident Brigid Ryan, the flier wasn’t too much of an intrusion.

“It doesn’t really bother me,” she said. “It was just about early voting.”

Maddie Sherman, Krista Stillmunkes, and Rebecca Robinson — all residents of Slater — also found the fliers on their floor sometime last week. They also said they weren’t particularly bothered by it.
Elizabeth Purchia, the Iowa press secretary at Obama for America, said the distributors of the fliers were volunteers for the organization.

“They were enthusiastic volunteers who were asked not to do it again,” she said in a statement.

UI political-science Associate Professor Tim Hagle said the odds of any action being taken against the group distributing the material were low.

“There’s an advantage of doing it this close to the election,” he said. “By the time anything gets done about it, it won’t matter anymore.”

Though if the UI does decide to take action, he said, an outside group could be banned from the campus as well.

“From a campaign’s perspective, this is just a literature drop,” he said. “They might not be aware of the university’s regulations. But the university is definitely concerned with random people on the floors.”

Quentin Marquez, the co-head of the UI College Republicans, said while it was important to spread the message to get the vote out, it’s important to make sure that groups stay within university policy.

The Iowa Democratic Party, whose name was listed on one of the fliers, did not respond to requests for comment as of Sunday evening.

Ryan Burkett, a UI junior who lives off campus, said the campaigns — especially for Obama — are extremely prominent.

“I see the Obama people everywhere,” he said. “They basically raided the Pentacrest.”

Though Burkett encourages each party to voice their support for early voting, he said he thinks the effort should be nonpartisan.

“It’s important for everyone’s voice to be heard and to encourage early voting,” he said. “But leave the party out of it. Just focus on the idea.”


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