University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett says “ghost," “shadow” or “spoiler” candidates are usually created by another candidate or a political group that’s trying to sway the outcome of a race.
And while that kind of move may be considered unethical, he says it's not illegal.
What You Need To Know
- Ben Paris, who was recently found guilty of making an illegal campaign contribution, is accused of being party to a "ghost campaign" ahead of the 2020 election
- While some of the others involved are facing charges for breaking campaign finance laws, the “ghost candidate” scheme itself wasn’t illegal, one expert says
- A political analyst says "ghost" candidates are created by a candidate or group that wants to influence the outcome of a race
“They have recruited a candidate to run that’s not really interested in winning or serving in office, they’re only on the ballot to draw votes away from one of the other candidates,” said Jewett.
He said such candidates often don’t have pictures of themselves on their website, actively campaign or even live in the area they’re running in. But Jewitt said as long as a ghost candidate follows campaign finance laws and files the proper paperwork to run, they’re candidacy is legal.
“They may be unethical, I think, and they’re certainly designed to confuse voters, but they’re not in and of themselves illegal,” he said. "So they’re probably going to happen again, so it’s incumbent up voters to do their homework.”
Community Services Coordinator for the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections, Kyndle Cobb, says it’s a constant challenge to make sure voters are well informed.
“When you have 337,960 registered voters in Seminole County, it’s tough to make sure that you’re reaching every one of them,” said Cobb.
Cobb works to make sure voters know how to vote, where to vote and where they need to go to have access to information about the people they’re voting for.
The agency’s website includes links to candidate websites where voters can learn more about each candidate.
“It’s tricky, because when you have disinformation campaigns, when you have conspiracy theories, when you have these things that are coming at you, those conversations can sometimes get tense and frustrating from both sides,” said Cobb. “But we try to do our best and work with those people who are simply uninformed but are curious, they want to know the right information.”
Cobb said he works to provide all the materials necessary to make sure voters can make an informed choice on election day.
“It’s educating the voters and making sure they’re prepared once they step up to cast their ballot,” he said.