Fun election facts

Fun fact: you're not allowed to put signs within 150 feet of the entrance to a polling location. The same applies to stickers ("pasters"), petition workers, sign holders, etc. Basically: nothin' except voters, observers, and election workers within 150 feet of the entrance, or inside the building of a polling location. From an admittedly small sampling, nobody seems to be heeding that rule, as at least one polling station I passed was festooned with signage well within that 150 foot zone (Google Earth and its ruler function are your friend.) Voting? You can possess, but not display, any campaign materials. This almost certainly includes stickers, buttons, t-shirts, and so on. Personal notes are A-OK.

Virtually every step of the process must be done in public view, starting with showing the ballot box to be empty and then locking it. The box cannot be removed from public view or opened, except to press down ballots to make room for more. Polls must be open for voting for at least 13 hours, and anyone in line when the polls close must be allowed to vote. Further, the polling station must remain open to allow the public the oppertunity to watch votes be tallied and sealed. If you fudge a ballot, you're allowed 2 more, and the "spoiled" ballots must not be inspected, but must be tracked/tallied, and sealed just like legitimate votes. Lastly, leave the smokes and beer at home, and you gotta fly solo in the booth (no hot democracy-themed fantasies, sorry), save for someone assisting you in marking your ballot (Well! Maybe not? Better make it quick, you two only have 5 minutes if anyone is waiting for a booth.)

State Secretary's summary, relevant chapter of the MGLs.

Problems? Call the Secretary of State: 617-727-2828 or 1-800-462-8683.

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    Comments

    Simple to Fix

    Poll workers, throughout the country, are poorly paid and poorly trained. Any system which relies upon them for the enforcement of no-campaigning zones is bound to fail. Similarly, most police officers can't be bothered with a task they consider to be petty.

    There's a simple solution, though. The overwhelming majority of people involved in GOTV efforts are well intentioned, and would willingly abide by the law if they knew about it. In other jurisdictions with similar statutes, it's not uncommon to require that every polling place put up a pair of signs, 150 feet to either side of the entrance. The signs announce that it's a polling place, and that campaigning or the display of materials is prohibited beyond that point.

    It works about 95% of the time. Poll workers, after all, can perform specific tasks on a checklist, and the signs go up before the poll opens, so they don't have to step outside when they should be manning the booths. The signs remove ambiguity - campaigners know where they're supposed to be, and police officers and poll workers can be prevailed upon to enforce the zones more easily when the violation is openly visible, and doesn't require the exercise of discretion. And the signs improve the visibility of the polling station for first-time voters.

    It's so simple, in fact, that one is forced to conclude that the only reason we don't do this hear is that the political establishment has no interest in enforcing the law.

    Illegal? Fortunately,

    Illegal?

    Fortunately, political campaigning is the sine qua non of free speech. If you don't like the calls, don't reward the candidates who employ them - that's a built-in corrective mechanism. But I can tell you that, complaints aside, they're an overwhelmingly effective tool, particularly in low-turnout elections like an off-year municipal primary.

    They may annoy most of the people they reach, but some percentage of those annoyed voters would not otherwise have remembered to vote. They raise name-recognition for challengers. And they help the ground-level operations target voters for face to face turnout efforts. That makes them a particularly valuable tool for those who lack the advantages of incumbency.

    I'm not saying you have to like them. But make them illegal? Why not just pass a law guaranteeing that incumbents can indefinitely renew their terms in office?

    Free speech

    I'm all for any candidate's right to free speech. Her robot does not share the right. If she wants to call me to talk to me about voting for her, then let her call me herself.

    That way I can also voice my free speech in telling her to piss off.

    In Arlington (and I'm sure

    In Arlington (and I'm sure other municipalities) there are permanent white lines painted on sidewalks and/or around phone poles or trees to mark the 150 foot boundary from polling place entrances. And cops will generally shoo people back over the line when they get too close. (And should someone actually call Town Hall and complain they'll get a cop out there right away to do the shooing.)

    Not in Brookline, a few years ago

    When I lived in Brookline a while ago, not only were there no lines drawn, but the police did nothing when I called to complain about workers campaigning too closely. During every election there were campaign workers, with badges and hats, standing in doorway to the polling place entrance telling people which way to vote. I'd call the police station and was told "unless they're holding signs *inside* the building, they're not breaking the law." At the doorway, giving voting advice was just fine and dandy, and they were exercising their right to free speech.

    Luckily for me, saying "go fuck yourself" at the entrance to a polling place apparently is also covered by freedom of speech, because that's the response they got from me every time.

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    who and the what now?

    A few years ago, this woman

    A few years ago, this woman actually handed out flyers supporting her candidate WHILE WE WERE STANDING INSIDE IN LINE TO VOTE. By the time I realized what she did, she was outside in front of the place handing out flyers to anyone who came in. When I confronted her about it afterwards, she just stood there saying nothing.

    But really, what am I supposed to do about it?