The Glynn County Board of Elections voted Tuesday to direct poll workers to report citizens displaying campaign material too close to polling places to sheriff’s deputies.
Elections and Registration Supervisor Monica Couch told board members that the Georgia Secretary of State’s office had directed elections staff statewide to allow people wearing or displaying campaign material into a polling place if they refused to leave or remove the material. Poll workers could then report the citizens to law enforcement authorities.
According to Georgia code, it is illegal to solicit votes or to distribute or display any form of “campaign literature, newspaper, booklet, pamphlet, card, sign, paraphernalia or any other written or printed matter of any kind ... within 150 feet of the outer edge of any building within which a polling place is established ... within any polling place ... (or) within 25 feet of any voter standing in line to vote at any polling place.”
Campaign apparel for parties or candidates who aren’t on the ballot are allowed, Couch said.
The directive from the state didn’t sit well with any of the five board members, but Keith Rustin said it made sense. Forcefully removing someone from a polling place would likely cause more problems than simply allowing them to vote.
Board member Tommy Clark, however, pointed out that the board would be shouldering the burden of proof. It would have to prove someone brought campaign material into a polling place after the fact if it followed the Secretary’s direction.
Sandy Dean agreed forcefully removing someone from a polling place could cause a scene, but said they had to do something. She suggested having poll managers let anyone violating the state code know they couldn’t be on the premises. If they refused to remove the material or leave, poll workers would report them to a sheriff’s deputy.
Ruby Robinson and Chairwoman Patty Gibson agreed with the suggestion, saying the board couldn’t simply overlook illegal behavior.
Gibson wrote a statement to be distributed to poll managers, so they will all say the same thing should they find themselves in such a situation. The board voted 5-0 to approve Gibson’s statement and direct poll workers to follow Dean’s suggestion.
The board also went into closed session to discuss recommendations from a U.S. Department of Homeland Security inspector.