Freedom Of Screech

| USA | Right | August 30, 2016

(I am working as an inspector at a polling place during the recent primary. A rule that has been in place as long as I can remember is that you cannot engage in electioneering – i.e. trying to influence others’ votes – within 100 feet of the polling place; this includes partisan apparel as well as verbal electioneering. I have already had to tell several people to take off their buttons, caps, etc. Most grumble but comply.)

Me: “Sir, you need to turn that shirt inside out.”

Man: “What? Why?”

Me: “Because it advertises a candidate, so it’s considered electioneering.”

Man: “You’re suppressing my freedom of speech!”

Me: *using the broken record technique* “No, it’s considered electioneering. There’s a restroom in the building where you can turn it inside out.”

Man: “Okay, but I want you to show me where it’s written I have to do that!”

(He’s on the roster and registered with a party, so none of that is an issue, and he gets his ballot and goes to vote. This gives me time to look through the Poll Worker Guide, where it says exactly what constitutes electioneering, and – surprise, surprise! – it says just what I told him, and then some. When he finishes voting, I show him the passage and, as requested, read it out to him word for word.)

Man: “I want to file a complaint! What’s your name?!”

(I hand him a card with the number of the Elections Office, upon which I write my name, position, the name of the polling place, and its ID number.)

Man: “So you’re telling me I can’t show my support for [Candidate]?”

Me: “You can, but it has to be at least 100 feet away from the polling place. Once you get there, you can turn your shirt back out.”

Man: “And you’re telling me that’s not suppressing my freedom of speech?!”

Me: *again* “No, it’s considered electioneering and it’s not allowed within 100 feet of the polling place.”

Man: *huffily* “Well, I bet if I asked around, people would say it was an issue of freedom of speech!” *storms out*

(I called the elections office and told them what happened, and they told me I was 100% in the right. No idea if he ever called and lodged that complaint, but if he did they probably told him the same thing.)

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