Did Bill Clinton, Mayor Walsh Break Massachusetts Voting Laws for Hillary?
Depends on your definition of ‘campaign materials.’
Update: March 4: The state has said that Bill Clinton did not break election laws.
Update: Tuesday, 5:45 p.m.
A reader passed along the above photo of Bill Clinton, Mayor Marty Walsh, and an unidentified man at Holy Name in West Roxbury posing with a Democratic ballot.
In an interview with the New York Times, Secretary Bill Galvin said, “We had to remind some of our poll workers that even a president can’t go inside and work a polling place.”
“He can go in, but he can’t approach voters,” Galvin went on, adding that poll workers in New Bedford, Clinton’s next stop, have been reminded of the rules. “We just took the extra precaution of telling them because this is not a usual occurrence. You don’t usually get a president doing this.”
With just a few hours left before polls close this Super Tuesday, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and husband Bill Clinton have been criss-crossing Massachusetts to round up enough votes to edge out Sen. Bernie Sanders, who previously led Clinton in the mostly white, progressive Bay State.
The former president was spotted in the Newton Free Library in Newton, as well as the Holy Name gymnasium in West Roxbury—both polling locations. He was joined at the latter by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a Clinton supporter.
President Clinton walking into Newton Free Library on Super Tuesday '16! pic.twitter.com/7fiqgJ6qVD
— Newton Free Library (@NewtonFreeLib) March 1, 2016
According to the Clinton campaign’s pool report, Bill took at least one photo with a voter outside Holy Name, kissed an elderly woman on her head, and signed another voter’s Hillary sign. The Globe also reports Clinton told one voter, “Pull the lever for Hillary.”
Inside the polling location, Clinton purchased a cup of coffee from a bake sale and shook hands with poll workers. When another woman asked for a photo, he said, “As long as we’re not violating any election laws.”
— Sera Congi (@seracongi) March 1, 2016
Trouble is, that’s precisely what he and Walsh seem to be doing, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s voting regulations.
“Within 150 feet of a polling place…no person shall solicit votes for or against, or otherwise promote or oppose, any person or political party or position on a ballot question, to be voted on at the current election,” the text reads. In addition, campaign operatives are prohibited from distributing “campaign material intended to influence the vote of a voter in the ongoing election” within 150 of a polling location.
The question, then, is this: Does Clinton or Walsh’s presence alone constitute “campaign material”?
— Adam Reilly (@reillyadam) March 1, 2016
Though a spokesperson for Secretary Bill Galvin’s office did not immediately respond to Boston‘s request for comment, one told Boston.com that Galvin had reached out to the Clinton campaign to remind them of the rule.
Asked whether his presence constitutes campaigning: "He's a well known person. And he's a spouse of a candidate. That should answer the ?."
— Adam Vaccaro (@adamtvaccaro) March 1, 2016
Walsh’s office denies any wrongdoing. “President Clinton joined Mayor Walsh to thank poll workers in West Roxbury this morning. They were not campaigning inside the polling location,” spokesperson Bonnie McGilpin said.