Democracy

August 10, 2010

After work today, I pedaled through the mid-afternoon swamp air to my local polling place to cast my vote in the Democratic (albeit not very democratic) primary. I felt my task was imbued with special importance because I read that my town “may be the swing town among the swing towns,” and briefly entertained the notion that this might give my vote extra weight (OK, not really).

Apparently, I was not the only person who thought the old W. Ha. (or Woo Hah, as I prefer to call it) might be important: Republican senate candidate Peter Schiff was there in person:

Polling place sign, with Peter Schiff in the background
(That’s him on the right, in the parking lot, with the white shirt.)

How could I tell it was him? Frankly, I wouldn’t have known, since I don’t keep close track of what Republicans look like. Luckily, however, he was standing right next to a huge, idling bus with his picture and name on it:

Schiff and his bus at my polling place
(It’s there, on the left behind the tree. Click on the picture for a much larger view.)

In the foreground of these pictures, you may notice a red sign. That sign is placed outside all polling places (per Connecticut General Statutes Section 9-236), and it says:

On the day of any primary, referendum or election no person shall solicit in behalf of or in opposition to another or himself or peddle or offer any ballot, advertising matter or circular to another person or loiter within a radius of seventy-five feet of any outside entrance in use as an entry to any polling place or in any corridor, passageway or other approach leading from any such outside entrance to such polling place or in any room opening upon any such corridor, passageway or approach.

After voting, I walked out the distance from the actual door to the place where the Schiff bus was parked, and it was clear of the 75-foot limit by a solid 20 feet. However, this particular polling place is in the rear building of a school, and if you drive there, you must park in the same lot where the Schiffmobile was idling and walk along the sidewalk visible at the lefthand side of the first photo, above. Now, I’m no lawyer, but – wait, actually, I am a lawyer, and I think the sidewalk from the parking lot to the building counts as a “passageway or other approach leading from any . . . outside entrance to [the] polling place.” Look at this aerial view:

Although Team Schiff was outside a 75-foot radius from the front door of the polling place, they were fully on the property of the school where voting was taking place and, more importantly, practically in the way of voters’ trip from the parking lot to the door. (Lucky for me, I came by bicycle, so I was able to get much closer to the door and avoid the bus and its crew.) Also, annoyingly, Schiff’s young, preppy acolytes were standing just beyond the 75 feet sign and shouting “Vote for Peter Schiff” at voters inside the perimeter. They shouted at me while I was carefully walking heel-to-toe to measure 75 feet to the bus.

Since I love both voting and the law, I went up to a young woman who was standing near the Schiffmobile and told her she was too close to the polling place. “We’re outside 75 feet,” she said. “But this sidewalk from the parking lot is a passageway to the polling place, and you’re practically on top of it,” I countered pleasantly. (Really. I was pleasant.) She seemed nonplussed, so I went back into the polling place and complained to the poll workers. They said they were uncertain how the rule should apply, and commenced discussing amongst themselves. I said I didn’t suppose it was such a big deal, but I thought I ought to say something, and with that, departed.

As I was ambling down the hall, one of the poll workers came after me, apparently to investigate, and we emerged from the building together, just in time to see the Schiffmobile retreating from the scene (although Schiff himself remained, talking on his cell phone and pacing). The Team Schiff Shouters were walking dejectedly toward the street. I went home with the happy notion that I had gone above and beyond the call of citizenship.

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One Response to “Democracy”

  1. An aware citizen is the voter’s best friend.

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