Court to consider whether candidates can collect signatures in front of supermarkets

The Supreme Judicial Court is set to hear an appeal from a man who says a decision by Roche Bros. to bar him from collecting signatures for his election campaign outside one of its stores violates his rights under the Massachusetts constitution, Associated Press reports.

Steven Glovsky of Wayland says Roche Bros. wouldn't let him collect signatures in a run for the governor's council in 2012 outside its Westwood store - something that would strike shoppers at its West Roxbury store as odd given the vast number of signature collectors that routinely stand there during election season.

State law gives candidates the right to collect signatures in malls, but Glovsky argues the court should extend this to the sort of giant supermarkets that often come with banks and large departments that sell things other than the basics, such as the Westwood Roche Bros.

Roche Bros. and other retailers, of course, beg to differ.

Court docket on the case, which includes copies of briefs by Glovsky and Roche Bros.

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    Comments

    Many chains also unfriendly to political rights

    It is private property after all, but many chains including Wallgreens are less than friendly to petitioners outside their stores. Its not that good a place to get signatures though as people are usually in a rush. A much better place is at non-chain gas stations that will allow it. People are waiting for the tank to fill anyway, so are not put out by asking for a minute of their time. These are the better types of situations than detaining people running errands.

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    Rights?

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    That isn't a right. The right is the right of the property owner to say NO SOLICITING. You have no "political right" to use a private place of business for your soap boxing. None at all.

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    Maybe people should gather at

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    Maybe people should gather at Steven Glovsky's home and collect signatures from people walking by, he wouldn't stop us from exercising our political rights, right? Polticians cant have 2 sets of rules, one for them and one for us. Why are politicians exempt from Do Not Call lists? Why does Glovsky think he should be able to go on private property just because he is a politician? Maybe Roache Brothers doesnt like his politics, that should be their freedom. He can stand on the sidewalk.

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    You're treating politicians

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    You're treating politicians like they're a different class. "Polticians cant have 2 sets of rules, one for them and one for us." They don't. If YOU want to go collect signatures, the same rules apply to you as to Glovsky. You don't technically need any political experience to run for office. Anyone can do it.

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    And one of those rules

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    apparently restricts the ability of candidates to collect signatures on private property. But instead of respecting that rule, Candidate "I'm so important" wants to get it changed so candidates can further trample on the rights of ordinary people to not be harrassed by signature collectors and the like while doing mundae tasks like grocery shopping.

    Here's a better idea. How about we just eliminate this utter nonsense of requiring a candidate to collect signatures to get on a ballot?

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    Furthermore

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    The "but johnny and suzie got to collect signatures" defence is also nonsense whilst standing on private property!

    The GOVERNMENT has to be fair about these things, but the private landowner can let you and not your rival in to canvas whenever they damn well please!

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    Different type of "private property"

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    Anyone can, and is welcome to, try to gather signatures for whatever political purpose in front of my house (and no, I am not a part of this lawsuit.) They can't, however, stand on the walkway to my house and do the same (though I don't mind anyone coming to the door and doing so, and those are the signatures you'd get standing there anyway.)

    Places like supermarkets are in a different class from a individual housing. For example, I can not allow access to my house to people of different races, creeds, sexual orientation, and so on. Supermarkets and shopping centers cannot bar people the same way. My house is not ADA compliant. Supermarkets and shopping centers are communal spaces. This is first amendment activity, important for civic life. I like meeting the candidates at the West Roxbury Roches (though now I am shopping when no one is there) just like I like meeting neighbors and friends there. I do think there are limits. People shouldn't be able to sell items on their own (yes, Girl Scouts, I mean you, though you should be allowed, as a class, you shouldn't) or do anything offensive (handing out pro or anti abortion materials might be in this area, but signatures for a ballot question preserving/expanding/restricting abortion access would be less so, depending on how it was handled.)

    Private property is private property, but sometimes it acts like a town square, and should be treated as such.

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    Courts have decided that

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    Courts have decided that places like malls, while private property, count as a public forum for First Amendment purposes.

    The walkway outside a large Roche Brothers is much more like a mall than it is like the front of someone's house.

    A mall, with its many stores

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    A mall, with its many stores and restaurants, is considered analogous to a community main street. A supermarket is a single entity. People go to the Post Office too - you don't see anyone collecting signatures on the P.O. property.

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    One remaining use for the Post Office

    I always found that the Post Office on Saturday morning was a great place to collect signatures. People are most likely to be from whatever town that branch is in, and they're not loaded down with groceries, etc. I never had much luck with malls because so many people weren't from the immediate locale or just weren't in the mood after fighting with the crowds. Outside a drug store was my second best spot, since people are likely to have their prescriptions filled at a place near their home.

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    private property rights are not absolute - protect democracy

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    Too bad none of these writers bothered to familiarize themselves with the law before spouting off. You can look up a summary on the Commonwealth's elections division website. The right to petition for signatures at shopping centers is established law in Massachusetts. (e.g., Batchelder vs. Allied Stores International, Inc. ) There is a compelling, fundamental public interest in enabling democracy. It overrides private property rights in this narrow instance. It is a practical necessity. Shopping centers and plazas have hollowed out and replaced many city centers. There are other instances in the law where private property rights are not absolute. The issue here is about collecting signatures at a standalone big box supermarket. Mr. Glovsky asked the state Supreme Judicial Court to overturn a lower court ruling that wouldn't allow him to have his complaint heard in court.