Friday, October 15, 2010

Michelle Obama Violated Illinois Election Law

A minor one, no doubt done unintentionally, though:
First lady Michelle Obama appears to have violated Illinois law — when she engaged in political discussion at a polling place!
The drama began after Mrs. Obama stopped off at the Martin Luther King Center on the south side of Chicago to cast an early vote.
After finishing at the machine, Obama went back to the desk and handed in her voting key.
She let voters including electrician Dennis Campbell, 56, take some photos.
“She was telling me how important it was to vote to keep her husband’s agenda going,” Campbell said.
According to a pool reporter from the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES at the scene, the conversation took place INSIDE the voting center, not far from the booths.
Illinois state law — Sec. 17-29 (a) — states: “No judge of election, pollwatcher, or other person shall, at any primary or election, do any electioneering or soliciting of votes or engage in any political discussion within any polling place [or] within 100 feet of any polling place.”
I actually think election laws like this one are rather silly. Here in North Dakota the law requires that all campaign signs be taken down on election day lest some voter be swayed at the last minute seeing a yard sign for a particular candidate on the way to vote.

Though you have to wonder…if a given voter is so impressionable that seeing a few campaign ads on the way to the polls, or even at the polls, that they’ll change their vote how meaningful was their vote anyway? And why would a last minute change of heart due to last-minute ad or sign be any less legitimate than a change of heart made days, weeks or months earlier?

I don’t think our polling places need to have campaigning going on. They’re often chaotic enough without that. But I’m not sure that laws making it illegal to express a political opinion in such a place are even constitutional.

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