Polling center PAC question - why didn't the MoveOn guy have to leave?
November 2, 2004 4:59 AM   Subscribe

ElectionFairnessFilter. So i just voted (yay) and noticed something odd - a man in the polling place sitting quietly behind a MoveOn PAC sign. I didn't think we in the US could have anyone inside the polling place advocating a specific voting paradigm (even if I do think it's a good paradigm to support), and so I wasn't surprised when a lady complained and an officious-looking man walked over to talk to the seated gentleman - but after a short conversation, they let him stay. Anyone know what gives here? Why would they not ask him to leave?
posted by caution live frogs to Law & Government (15 answers total)
he may have been either a challenger (challenging voter registrations) or simply, and more likely, a watcher (an observer to make sure no shenanigans)
posted by ShawnString at 5:18 AM on November 2, 2004

That's what I would assume, too, Shawn, but I clf has a point--aren't there rigorous rules about no politicking or promotion within 100 yards or something around a polling place? It's not the guy's presence that's necessarily curious, but the sign.
posted by LairBob at 5:59 AM on November 2, 2004

There were signs and campaign volunteers all the way up to the door to my polling place, but nothing inside.
posted by anathema at 6:21 AM on November 2, 2004

By the way, the number of people waiting in line before the polls opened (Exeter, New Hampshire) was astonishing. Although it is my first time voting in this location, many people in line who have voted there in the past were totally blown away by the turn out so far.
posted by anathema at 6:23 AM on November 2, 2004

I think it's no candidate-or-party campaigning. Since the PACs are pseudo-non partisan in order to maintain financial independence under campaign finance, it's likely that it's legal without requiring special status.

that said, that guy is not exhibiting real good judgement, seems to me.
posted by mwhybark at 6:34 AM on November 2, 2004

My precinct had one very dedicated young woman at a MoveOn table, under an umbrella, in the cold rain, way out on the sidewalk away from the front entrance to the elementary school, but in clear view of the triple-folded line of a few hundred people that had snaked out under the breezeway.

Also a guy at a "Voters Legal Rights" table. Not sure exactly who they were. I think both tables were on hand in case anyone was challenged when trying to register. (Minnesota allows same-day registration.)
posted by gimonca at 7:15 AM on November 2, 2004

What state? I was shocked when I lived in Indiana to see blatant politicking all the way up to the door of the polling place...

Here in Atlanta they keep them a reasonable distance away.
posted by jpburns at 7:31 AM on November 2, 2004

EVERY STATE HAS DIFFERENT REGULATIONS ABOUT THIS STUFF. In some states, you have to be a certain number of feet away from the polling place with any partisan material; in some states, you can be anywhere up to the door, but not inside; and it may be that in some states, PACS can be inside the polling place if specific candidates' names are not mentioned.

CLF, without knowing what state you're in, we have no way of knowing whether this was a violation or not.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:45 AM on November 2, 2004

Response by poster: oops - sorry. should have mentioned i'm in michigan (in my profile, but i should have stated it in the FPP) - a battleground state, but not as hot as ohio, etc.

i was under the impression (from a friend who is also volunteering to monitor things) that we had a 75 foot distance requirement here, not from the actual voting booths but from the building. this guy was actually in the school gym that contained the voting machines.

anyone know if michigan restricts everyone from entering the polling place, or allows PACs to maintain observes to help if there are problems? all i can find in the michigan voters bill of rights (from the MoveOn.org website, ironically) is that we have the right to vote without being bothered by anyone.

i think from what i've heard from others here that he may have been an election observer, although he had the MoveOn PAC sign and a stack of voter guides (never saw him touch them though, nor did he approach anyone - just sat there quietly reading his paper.) so, does that count as not bothering anyone? i was pretty surprised to see that he wasn't made to leave immmediately (although it's possible that he refused to leave, and i just wasn't there long enough to see when he was forcibly ejected...)

and, anathema, yes - the line here was also surprisingly long for 7 AM, and quite a few people were commenting on that.
posted by caution live frogs at 7:55 AM on November 2, 2004

glmonca - the MoveOn people were out at my polling place as well (Bryant Square Park in Minneapolis). They're just talking to people as they leave the polls, checking agains their list of assured voters.
posted by nathan_teske at 8:01 AM on November 2, 2004

Michigan law seems to indicate that it is illegal to "solicit votes" within 100 feet of a polling place, or within a polling place. It sounds like the election officials didn't interpret having a MoveOn.org sign as "soliciting votes".
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:20 AM on November 2, 2004

MoveOn had a table set up a fair distance away from my precinct as well. I was looking for poll watchers and challengers inside, but I didn't see any. I'm in Minneapolis (precinct - New Life Ministries on Nicollet).

(nathan - we're neighbors :-)
posted by Juicylicious at 8:21 AM on November 2, 2004

Oddly enough, I just got a call from a MoveOn volunteer who said that there are RNC challengers who are insisting that MoveOn move 100' away from the building. So what they're doing is picking the corner of the building, which is farthest away from the entrance and making MoveOn move 100' from that point. Basically, making them ineffective. I just called the DFL's legal hotline and was told that interpretation is correct in MN.
posted by Juicylicious at 9:02 AM on November 2, 2004

Here in Atlanta they keep them a reasonable distance away.
Aye. In GA, I think it is something like no politicing within 100 feet of the voting area, nothing inside the voting area, and at least 25 feet from anyone standing in line. Up here in Athens, the main road going to the polling place had tons of people politicing, but none whatsoever once you got to the main voting place.
posted by jmd82 at 9:24 AM on November 2, 2004

juciylicious - time for a meetup? ;)

And fwiw, I just walked back past "my" polling place. The MoveOn people had relocated across the street from the park building and are now on private property.
posted by nathan_teske at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2004

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