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State Senate candidate Virginia Smith fined

Democratic state senate candidate Virginia Smith has been fined $1,750 for violating the state’s Stand by Your Ad law requiring candidates to identify who is funding their campaign literature.

The Virginia Board of Election’s decision to fine the campaign was made at its Tuesday, Sept. 17, meeting in Richmond. The minutes of that meeting with details about the fine were only recently made available.

Thirty-five complaints were filed through the Stand by Your Ad (SBYA) online complaint form by William Pace from Aug. 21 to present alleging violation of the law by the campaign not having disclaimers on yard signs, literature in the board’s meeting packet said. Signs violating the requirement were from Burkeville, to Baskerville, to South Hill, to Blairs, to the counties of Prince George, Dinwiddie and Halifax, the literature noted.

Andrea Gaines, a spokesperson for the Virginia Department of Elections, referred questions about the fine to the statute, which notes that any sponsor violating the statute is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $1,000 per occurrence.

During the meeting, Arielle A. Schneider, a policy analyst, told the board the penalty would be $3,500 without apology or remediation and $1,750 with an apology or remediation, the minutes show.

Smith addressed the board “and sincerely apologized for not having the disclaimer on the yard signs,” the draft minutes said. “She stated that this is her first time running for office and was unaware of the disclosure.”

Smith informed the Board that she has added the disclosure to all 35 signs and presented the picture to the board, the minutes said.

Consequently, Vice Chair John O’Bannon asked that the penalty be on the lower end at $1,750, the minutes note.

The law requires candidates to put information about who authorized or paid for an advertisement or poster so that voters know who is financially backing the candidate running for office.

Smith was not alone in her breach, as the packet noted a number of other candidates for various offices across the state were also being accused of violating the provision.

Smith is challenging long-serving incumbent Republican Frank Ruff for his 15th District senate seat in the November election.

The sprawling 15th District includes all of Charlotte, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg and Nottoway counties, and parts of Brunswick, Campbell, Dinwiddie, Halifax, Pittsylvania, and Prince George counties, as well as part of the city of Danville.