Write-In Candidates and Your Station’s Obligation to Provide Equal Opportunity
What are a community radio station’s obligations for write-in candidates?
Typically, write-in candidates have a different threshold than other candidates, for which stations must meet particular broadcast obligations. Whereas a balloted candidate files paperwork or meets state and national criteria for their run for office, there is no certification in most states for write-in candidates. However, these candidates may claim to your station equal opportunity and/or discrimination issues, citing FCC language to this effect.
The FCC regards only write-in candidates that are engaged in activities that all other candidates are doing to be considered a full-fledged candidate for office. Under Section 73.1940(f), the Commission defines this “substantial showing” of a write-in candidate as follows:
“The term substantial showing of a bona fide candidacy as used in paragraphs (b) of this section means evidence that the person claiming to be a candidate has engaged to a substantial degree in activities commonly associated with political campaigning. Such activities normally would include making campaign speeches, distributing campaign literature, issuing press releases, maintaining a campaign committee, and establishing campaign headquarters (even though the headquarters in some instances might be the residence of the candidate or his or her campaign manager). Not all of the listed activities are necessarily required in each case to demonstrate a substantial showing, and there may be activities not listed herein which would contribute to such a showing.”
Stations are within their rights to seek clarity from a write-in candidate on the substantial showing threshold. To determine whether a write-in candidate has made a substantial showing, stations may request documentation such as campaign literature and press releases. Stations may also review such matters as whether the candidate is hosting campaign rallies, if s/he is making speeches, organizing appearances, and the existence of a campaign office, campaign staff and other issues that give the public assurance the candidacy is more than a website.
The FCC’s Policy Division, in many cases, can review a write-in candidate’s documentation to help a station determine the candidate’s credibility.
This information is provided by the National Federation of Community Broadcasters