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Laws Prohibiting Electioneering within 100 Feet of Polling Places

To: Campaigns and Candidates

From: John Arntz, Director of Elections

Date: September 30, 2008

RE: Laws Prohibiting Electioneering within 100 Feet of Polling Places

Elections offices throughout the state have received a high number of questions related to electioneering activities in and around polling places. While not an exhaustive list, such messages includes buttons, hats, clothing, signage, pens, pencils, and brochures that encourage support for candidates or ballot measures. In response, the Secretary of State's office issued guidance on what constitutes electioneering. The memorandum from the Secretary of State provides a useful definition of electioneering and the limitation placed on electioneering by State elections law:

 (A)ny message that can be reasonably connected to a candidate or measure that is on the ballot cannot be allowed within 100 feet of the polls.

The San Francisco Department of Elections is issuing this memorandum to all campaigns and candidates who have provided contact information with the Department to assist them in organizing their election-related activities. To further assist campaigns and candidates, the personnel from the Department's Campaign Services division will be available from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. before the Department's open house on October 15 to answer questions regarding the election, including questions related to electioneering.

For all elections, the Department instructs pollworkers to politely inform voters of the prohibitions against certain activities within 100 feet of polling places when encountering instances of electioneering. Pollworkers are also instructed to contact the Department if campaigns or candidates organize electioneering activities within 100 feet of polling places. The Department will dispatch personnel to inform the participants of organized electioneering to remain beyond the 100 foot limit. If electioneering were to continue inside this boundary, the Department will contact the San Francisco Police Department.

Please note that exit polling may take place no closer than 25 feet of polling places by news media or other organizations surveying voters as to how they voted. Media may enter a polling place to film or interview voters, as long as the voters grant their consent to being filmed and interviewed and voting is not disrupted. For both exit polling and media activities, no items that could reasonably be connected to a candidate or a ballot measure are allowed within 100 feet of the polling site. Further, only pollworkers can post signs within 100 feet of the polling place.

Finally, the purpose of the Department's efforts related to electioneering is to encourage an environment at polling places that allows people to vote without any sense of persuasion or intimidation. On Election Day, the Department staffs a phone line intended exclusively for campaigns and candidates to contact the Department and report electioneering activities or other concerns related to voting.

Encl; California Secretary of State Memorandum,  November General: Electioneering.
Letter from Department to San Francisco's Pollworkers regarding Electioneering

Information for Pollworkers

What constitutes Electioneering?
Any message that can be reasonably connected to a candidate or measure that is on the ballot is considered electioneering.

What are the forms of Electioneering?
There are many forms of electioneering. These are the most common forms that you as a pollworker may need to resolve on Election Day:

· Wearing a garment, sticker, pin etc. which indicates support for a candidate, or ballot measure;

· Distributing, carrying, posting political literature, posters, banners, buttons etc;

· Soliciting a vote or speaking to a voter on the subject of marking his or her ballot.

Is Electioneering permitted at and around the polling place?
No. Electioneering is not permitted inside a one hundred foot radius from the entrance to the polling place. This distance is calculated from the door of the room in which voting is taking place.

Is there something that pollworkers can do to remind voters that Electioneering is not permitted inside a one hundred foot radius from the entrance to the polling place?
Pollworkers must post a  No Electioneering sign 100 feet away from the polling place in each direction (left, right, across the street etc.)

To measure 100 feet, go to the entrance of the room in which voting takes place and walk approximately 35 steps. Your FED will carry electioneering twine that you may use to measure 100 feet.

What actions should the pollworkers take if Electioneering is taking place?
If there are electioneering signs that you can reach, please remove them.

If there are people who are electioneering, please remind them that the California
Elections Code Section 18370 states that no one may attempt to influence voters within 100 feet of a polling place entrance. Let them know that  No Electioneering signs are posted at the 100-foot boundary and ask people to relocate outside these boundaries.

If a voter who walks into your polling place is wearing a garment, button, or sticker which indicates a position or candidate, please ask him or her to remove or cover the article. If a person refuses, expedite them through the line of voters, so they leave as soon as possible.

Always remain composed and attempt to keep the situation from escalating when asking those engaged in electioneering to cease the activity. Do not put yourself or others in harm's way. If you can't resolve the electioneering, call your Field Election Deputy and the Election Center for assistance.

Rules for pollworkers!
As a pollworker you must be impartial and not express any personal opinions or opinions about any candidate or measure on the ballot. You must remain impartial, non-partisan and cannot take sides on any issue or try to persuade anyone to vote a certain way.

What would you do in these situations?
1. A person leaves a pencil with a candidate's name on it urging voters to vote for a particular candidate in a voting booth.

Answer: This constitutes electioneering. A pollworker should remove the pencil from the voting booth.

2. A voter walks into a polling place wearing a T-shirt with the  Rock the Vote message on it.

Answer: Because such a T-shirt does not advocate voting for or against a particular candidate or measure, it's not considered electioneering and pollworkers do not have to take any actions.

If the shirt had a statement for or against something or someone on the ballot, it would not be allowed within 100 feet of the polls. In that case, the pollworkers would need to politely ask voter to cover it up or turn the T-shirt inside out.

3. There is a sign posted in the window of the building next door to the polling place.

Answer: This constitutes electioneering. A pollworker should politely ask the homeowner to take the sign down if it is within 100 feet of the entrance of the polls. If you encounter any difficulties in communicating with the homeowner, please call you Field Election Deputy for assistance.

Last updated: 2/12/2010 1:52:12 PM