Candidate Frequently Asked Questions
Who must file Campaign Financial Disclosure Statements?
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PROSPECTIVE CANDIDATES- Any individual who receives contributions or makes expenditures (except for incidental expenditures) to determine if he or she will be a candidate for state or local public office is required to report to the appropriate agency.
ANNOUNCED CANDIDATES- Any individual who has made a formal announcement of his or her candidacy for a state or local elected public office or who has formally qualified to seek election to public office in a primary or general election in Tennessee is required to report to the appropriate agency.
CANDIDATES EXEMPTED- A local candidate may be exempt from the Campaign Financial Disclosure Act’s requirements if he or she is seeking a public office for which the service is part-time and for which the compensation is less than five hundred dollars ($500) per month. This exemption does not apply if the public office being sought is that of a chief administrative officer or if the candidate spends more than one thousand dollars ($1000) seeking election to the public office.
Where must candidates file reports?
CANDIDATES FOR STATE OFFICE- Candidates and single-candidate political campaign committees involved in elections for state public offices (Governor, member of the General Assembly, delegate to a Tennessee Constitutional Convention, District Attorney General, District Public Defender, Judge of the Court of Criminal Appeals, Judge of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court Justice) must file all required reports with the Registry of Election Finance, 404 James Robertson Parkway, Suite 1614, Nashville, TN 37243-1360.
CANDIDATE FOR LOCAL PUBLIC OFFICE- A candidate or single-candidate political campaign committee involved in a local election must file all required reports with the election commission of the county or counties where the election will be held.
What must a candidate do to begin a campaign operation?
POLITICAL CAMPAIGN TREASURERS- Before any monies can be received or spent, (except for incidental expenditures made by an individual to determine whether to be a candidate), each candidate must certify the name and address of its political treasurer to the Registry of Election Finance for a state election and to the county election commission for a local election. This is accomplished by completing and filing an appointment of political treasurer statement.
A candidate may appoint himself or herself as the political treasurer for a campaign. If a candidate appoints another person to act as political treasurer, the candidate must co-sign all reports required to be filed under the Campaign Financial Disclosure Act.
CAMPAIGN BANK ACCOUNT- A candidate must open and maintain a separate bank account into which all campaign contributions are to be deposited. Additionally, all expenditures from campaign funds must be expended from this bank account.
If a person is a candidate for more than one public office, the candidate must maintain separate campaign bank accounts for each office sought.
How long is an appointment of treasurer statement effective?
CANDIDATES - PRIMARY, GENERAL ELECTIONS- A political treasurer appointed by a candidate or single-candidate political campaign committee may serve for both the primary and general elections. After the last election in which that candidate or committee is involved in that election year, monies shall not be received or spent for a future election until the candidate or committee has formally appointed a political treasurer for the future election year and filed a report of that appointment with the Registry of Election Finance or the appropriate county election commission. (The new appointment must be filed, even if the treasurer is the same individual who served in that capacity in the candidate’s previous election.)
CHANGE OF TREASURERS- Candidates must notify the Registry or the appropriate county election commission of any changes in the office of political treasurer. An appointment of political treasurer statement must be completed and filed for the individual who replaces the previous treasurer.
What information must be reported in a campaign financial disclosure statement?
Contributions In-Kind Contributions Obligations
More information can be obtained at www.tn.gov/tref/
What campaign financial disclosure statements may a candidate have to file?
Early Semi-Annual: Filed if a candidate appoints a political treasurer before January 1 in the year of the election in which the candidate or committee expects to be involved. Must be filed by January 31st and July 15th of each year preceding the election.
Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Filing Dates are provided in previous pages or at their website: www.tn.gov/tref/
The Registry began offering electronic filing with the 2004 August election. The electronic filing system is an Internet based software maintained by the Registry. When a state candidate files an Appointment of Treasurer Statement with the Registry, they will receive an ID and Password that will allow them to file electronically.
The Registry website is www.tn.gov/tref/.
Will a candidate receive notice when a disclosure report is due?
The Registry of Election Finance is required to notify candidates for state public office fourteen (14) days before any regularly scheduled statement is due and each county election commission is required to notify candidates for local public office seven (7) days before any regularly scheduled statement is due.
How much may be contributed?
Person Limits (per election)
PAC Limits (per election)
Local/ House Candidates
Senate/ Statewide Candidates
Aggregate PAC Limit (per election)
All Elections Except Statewide
Note: Primary and General are separate elections.
$50 in currency (cash) to any candidate or PAC
Contributions exceeding $50 per election must be made by check, money order or other written instrument.
If two or more individuals (such as husband and wife) want to make a contribution using one check drawn on a joint account they may. If a contribution is made in this manner, it is advisable to attach a statement explaining to the recipient how the contribution should be divided between the contributors.
A husband and wife each have separate contribution limits, even if only one spouse has an income. For example, a couple may contribute a $2,800 check to a candidate’s primary campaign and have $1,400 attributed to the husband and $1,400 attributed to the wife.
A child under eighteen (18) years of age may make contributions from funds they control if the minor knowingly and voluntarily makes such contribution. A minor may not use funds provided as a gift to them for the purpose of making a contribution to make contributions to a candidate or PAC.
Can a candidate use funds from a previous election for a subsequent election?
All state and local candidates may transfer unexpended campaign funds to a future campaign for the same office by that candidate. State candidates may transfer any excess campaign funds to any future state or local campaign that the candidate establishes. Local candidates may transfer excess campaign funds only to future local campaigns that the candidate establishes.
When must a report be filed if the due date falls on a weekend or holiday?
Whenever a due date for a campaign financial disclosure statements falls on weekend day or holiday, such report is due to be filed with the Registry of Election Finance or the county election commission, whichever is required, on the next business day.
“Filed” means the date that the Registry or county election commission actually receives the candidate or committee’s disclosure statement or the date of the postmark, if the statement is mailed by certified or registered mail.
How does a candidate close out a campaign account?
A campaign account may be closed out at any time when the candidate or political action committee has filed a campaign disclosure statement that shows no unexpended balance, continuing debts or obligations or expenditure deficit.
No additional reports are required after a campaign account is properly closed.
How long must campaign records be maintained?
Candidates must retain records for at least 2 years after the date of election to which the records refer.
The Registry of Finance and each county election commission shall maintain all reports filed for 5 years.
Are there penalties for not filing required reports to the Registry of Finance?
The Registry of Finance does have authority to impose civil penalties against a candidate for failing to file a statement on time and ignoring subsequent warnings about the required report. The Registry also has the authority to impose civil penalties for other violations. More information can be found on their website: www.tn.gov/tref/
A candidate in a state or local election who fails to file a required disclosure statement or pay an assessed civil penalty is ineligible to qualify as a candidate in any future state or local elections until the report is properly filed with the Registry and/or the local county election commission.
Campaign Activity at the Polling Place - (T.C.A.§2-7-111)
WHERE DOES THE CAMPAIGN FREE ZONE END?
• Generally- 100’ from the entrances of the building in which the election is being held.
• At the end of the public property and at the beginning of private property.
HOW MUST THE CAMPAIGN FREE ZONE BE DESIGNATED?
• Signs marking the boundary line must be placed at the end of the required distance from the entrance of the building.
WHAT ACTIVITY IS PROHIBITED IN THE CAMPAIGN FREE ZONE?
• No campaign posters, signs or other campaign materials may be displayed.
• No person may distribute campaign materials, or solicit votes for or against any person or political party or position on a question.
• No person may solicit or collect for any cause except normal activities that may occur at such polling place such as a church, school, grocery, etc.
WHAT ACTIVITY IS PERMITTED IN THE CAMPAIGN FREE ZONE?
• An individual voter may bring a sample ballot or other campaign literature inside the boundary as long as the voter does not display the campaign literature to other voters.
• If the parking place of the polling place lies within the boundary, then a vehicle having campaign literature displayed on it may be parked within the boundary, only for as long as necessary for the occupant of the vehicle to vote. This does not include vans that transport multiple persons.
WHAT ACTIVITY IS PERMITTED OUTSIDE OF THE CAMPAIGN FREE ZONE?
• Campaign workers may distribute campaign literature and other materials and may speak to voters regarding the candidates and issues.
• Candidates may be present and/or have signs in the area.
• Persons may solicit and collect for any legal cause.
WHO ENFORCES THE CAMPAIGN FREE ZONE?
• Officer of Elections at each polling location
• County Election Commission
WHEN A VIOLATION OCCURS, TO WHAT EXTENT MAY THE COUNTY ELECTION COMMISSION GO TO ENFORCE THE CAMPAIGN FREE ZONE?
• Contact the police.
• If deemed necessary, forward information to the District Attorney for violation of T.C.A. § 2-19-119.