If you’ve ever seen volunteers standing outside of a polling place on Election Day, you’ve witnessed electioneering.
Across the country, states have different rules and policies about the practice — that is, any written or verbal communication that could be interpreted as trying to sway a voter’s opinion at the polls — that details just how close volunteers and campaign paraphernalia is allowed to be to a polling place.
In Alabama, campaigners need only be 30 feet away from the entrance of the polling place. But Alabama’s chief election officer, Secretary of State John Merrill thinks it’s time for that to change.
“We have one of the most liberal laws in the nation at 30 feet,” Merrill said in an interview with AL.com. “We think that needs to be addressed.”
But not everyone agrees with Merrill. Democrats don’t consider changes to the the electioneering zone a high priority.
“There are more important issues that we should be focusing our attention on to make the process easier and more effective than it already is,” Hunstville-Democrat and Alabama House Minority Leader, State Rep. Anthony Daniels told AL.com.
What is engineering
Election Day electioneering includes, but is not limited to, activities such as:
- Asking how voters intend to voters and soliciting their votes for a particular candidate or issue.
- Distributing, and/or wearing, t-shirts, buttons, signs, bumper stickers newspapers, or flyers.
- Placing signs, posters, stickers, or other material relating to a particular candidate or issue.
- Passing out handouts that solicits a vote or recommends a given candidate, slate of candidates, or position on a given issue.
Innocent remarks, including comments about facts or opinions about politics are often interpreted as electioneering and are thus not allowed in the polls on Election Day.
Electioneering across the country
While Merrill calls Alabama’s electioneering laws among the “most liberal in the nation,” there are several states with even more lax policies. Topping the list is Pennsylvania where campaigners are required to be just 10 feet away the entrance of a polling place — by far the most liberal allowance in the country.
But most states across the country, 32 of them, require at least 100 feet of distance between electioneering and the polls. But that’s not the case in the South, where five states require 50 feet or less, which puts Alabama in good company — matching neighbor-state’s Mississippi’s requirement and ahead of Missouri’s 25 feet.
Meanwhile, just two states over in Louisiana, you’ll find the most stringent of all electioneering laws in the country. The Pelican State requires a whopping 600 feet distance the polls — 300 feet more than any other state.